Bin Laden-Linked Arrests May Spell Trouble for Taliban

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The Afghans ought to keep their eyes on the skies. The arrest of 13 alleged terrorists linked with Osama Bin Laden in Jordan Wednesday may spell trouble for Afghanistan's ruling Taliban movement. The group, which included Jordanians, an Iraqi and an Algerian, was reportedly trained in Bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan, and had some nasty plans for the New Year — to attack U.S. and Israeli targets in Jordan. The revelations follow Washington's warning to the Taliban on Tuesday that they would be held responsible for any Bin Laden attacks on U.S. targets. The Taliban continues to harbor the terrorist mastermind, despite U.N. sanctions and constant U.S. pressure to expel him. But the movement's insistence that they've forbidden Bin Laden from conducting attacks abroad may have set them up for U.S. retribution if he does.

"Nobody knows exactly what the U.S. is planning to do if there are Bin Laden strikes, but presumably they're considering military options," says TIME Washington correspondent Massimo Calabresi. The U.S. fired cruise missiles at Bin Laden's training camps near Kandahar in Afghanistan after last year's terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in East Africa. The U.S. has patiently cajoled the Taliban, via direct talks as well as through the movement's traditional backers in Pakistan and Afghanistan, to hand over Bin Laden, but to no avail. "The Taliban occasionally plays nice, but only in order to get the West off their backs," says Calabresi. "The feeling in Washington is now to wallop them if Bin Laden strikes again, because playing nice hasn't helped."