The Ground War: Into The Fray

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U.S. special forces seen inside a building believed to be near Kandahar

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Until American commandos actually capture or kill their prized prey, guessing where bin Laden has made his cave or whether the U.S. will find it will remain a fool's game. But the arrival of ground forces on the scene has at least returned some clarity of purpose to a campaign that was starting to get lost in the fog. For now, discussions on less immediate matters--like what shape a post-Taliban government should take or whether states such as Iraq and Syria should be targeted for their past complicity in international terrorism--will be held behind curtains. Domestic politics intruded on grand strategy last week. The more besieged the public feels about terrorist threats, the less willing it will be to wait for the game to play itself out. That's why, despite the obvious risks, the Administration couldn't hold off much longer before putting American boots on the ground.

But victory in this war will require steadfast hearts and steely stomachs. Patience remains America's most potent weapon in its fight against reckless foes unafraid of their own obliteration. In Kandahar last Thursday, on the eve of U.S. ground attacks there, the local mood brimmed with contempt for the Taliban and their terrorist guests and with anticipation that their hold may soon disintegrate. "Taliban and [Afghan] Arabs are fools," said Abdul Ghafoor, 45, a Kandahar resident. "Fools don't think when they burn themselves." If so, they had better watch out, because the fire has started.

—Reported by Hannah Beech/Dast-e-Qale, Massimo Calabresi, Mark Thompson and Douglas Waller/Washington, Michael Fathers/Tashkent, Helen Gibson/London, Ghulam Hasnain/Kandahar, Terry McCarthy/Islamabad, Tim McGirk/Quetta, Paul Quinn-Judge/on the Kabul front

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