OCT. 10 - OCT. 24, 2001

Last update 31 Oct. 2001

Ex-Military Official Help TV Coverage
Gen. Wesley Clark: Attacks deliberate and patient
Maj. Gen. Wesley Clark: Air campaign intensifying
Gunship delivers fearsome firepower
Military experts find TV work plentiful
New Rules For Fighting
Ground war begins
The Armchair General
American jets hit Taliban front line in effort to take Kabul before winter
Taliban line holds as air raids go on
Gen. Wesley Clark: Questions abound for U.S. forces

Top Stories - Associated Press - updated 6:20 PM ET Oct 10

Wednesday October 10 4:37 AM ET

Ex-Military Official Help TV Coverage

By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer

Wesley K. Clark

NEW YORK (AP) - With the war on terrorism essentially out of camera range, television networks are relying heavily on former military leaders to explain the complicated operations to viewers.

All of the national network news operations have ex-military brass working as consultants, including former Defense Secretary William Cohen at CBS and former NATO (news - web sites) commander Wesley Clark at CNN.

Often armed with pointers and detailed maps of Afghanistan (news - web sites), the former leaders use their expertise to suggest possible strategy. Off the air, they advise journalists on how not to breach national security and even, in the case of retired U.S Army General Barry McCaffrey at NBC, help decide how to deploy personnel in a war zone.

Yet for people used to giving orders and often ingrained with a suspicion of the press, it's sometimes an awkward role.

``If you're in the world of journalism, people will say, `what have you heard?''' said Clark , who retired in May 2000 as the supreme NATO commander. ``The answer is, well, nothing. I'm listening, too. If you go the military, it's like, `if I say something to you, are you going to use it on the air?' You fall between the two worlds.''

Most of the analysts say they don't even bother reaching out to former colleagues for secret details on what's going on so they won't even be tempted to say something they shouldn't on the air.

``You have to know to hold back sensitive material and your employer has to respect that,'' Clark said. ``You cannot become a reporter.''

Shortly after he began working for CBS in 1990, retired U.S. Army Col. Mitch Mitchell found the network had been slipped a battle plan for the Gulf War (news - web sites) two days before the operation was launched. He was pleased to see that the network, without debate, suppressed the information so people weren't endangered.

He's never since been asked for information that might compromise national security, he said.

The retired military officials work on a consultant basis for the networks, on call when they're needed. The networks wouldn't say how much they're paid. ABC has about a dozen experts in the military, terrorism, the Middle East and aviation on salary, a spokesman said. CBS has five military consultants.

``The experts provide our viewers with extraordinary knowledge and insights into military strategies and warfare,'' said Barbara Levin, NBC News spokeswoman.

Mitchell, for example, told CBS viewers how the opening stages of the bombing campaign is designed to take out the eyes and the ears of the enemy, targeting radar sites and communications facilities.

He doesn't describe the composition or expected tactics of special operations forces, but says that ``they will not be seen or heard at all, but felt by the enemy in ways that they don't expect.''

Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner, who led the air war in the Persian Gulf, said that when he's on the air for ABC, he tries to explain military technology and strategy. He translates, and doesn't try to predict or second-guess.

``Sometimes I can present arguments that would be presented in the council of war, the pros and cons of a particular action,'' Horner said. ``But again, you have to be careful there. I don't have all the information available of the people making decisions. All I can do is talk in generalities.''

The former military officials vary in their willingness to criticize their old business. McCaffrey, the former national drug czar, has been outspoken in saying the United States underestimated the terrorist threat. Retired U.S. Army General George Joulwan, former Allied commander in Europe now working for Fox News Channel, said he criticized the lack of a ground war plan when the U.S. was in Kosovo.

Of the current conflict, Joulwan said, ``I haven't seen anything that I'd be critical of right now.''

``You can never question what the commander decides to do,'' CNN's Clark said. ``Once you've been on the inside and realize how much information he has, you've been educated the same way he has and trained the same way he has, you'd probably do the same thing if you saw the information he has.''

They all acknowledge a deep-seated hostility toward the press within the military. But each of the high-level officers said they had found it best to work with the media. Clark, for example, said he would encourage the Bush administration to provide better media access to the war's operations.

``We're a team and the media is part of that team,'' Joulwan said. ``That doesn't mean we all have to be in lock-step. I think the ones that I've talked to realize that we're all in this together and we all have roles to play.''

Horner, who has been working for ABC for three years, said he has a new appreciation for journalists now that he's seen their work from the inside.

``I really like working with the young people who produce the stories and line up everything that makes the talking heads look good,'' he said. ``They really are hard-working. They work under tremendous pressure and extraordinarily long hours. And they don't get paid a hell of a lot, either.''



Gen. Wesley Clark: Attacks deliberate and patient

October 11, 2001 Posted: 2214 GMT

Wesley K. Clark

Retired Army General Wesley Clark is a former NATO supreme commander and a military analyst for CNN

Update: U.S. aircraft continue the intense bombing of targets in Afghanistan.

Impact: We're into a process that can last days, weeks or months. There's nothing to stop it. Osama bin Laden has apparently bought the Taliban or paid a great deal of money to influence them. He's inside Afghanistan. As long as there's no significant military assistance being received by the Taliban from Pakistan, China, Iran or any other country, then we just need to work very deliberately and patiently and it may take a few days or a few months to have the impact of destroying the Taliban's control, flushing out Osama bin Laden and ultimately detaining Osama bin Laden. But I think it can be done.

Strategy: We need to use air power to deliver the firepower. We need to augment or assist the air power by using unmanned aerial vehicles and special operating forces on the ground in target identification and detection. I think we're going to continue to bomb. I think there's still troop movement going on and we're probably making preparations to put special operations forces in, in somewhat larger numbers. They probably haven't already gone in yet.

What we have to do is we have to be very, very aware of the land mine issue because it is a potential problem. If we don't have information on where the land mines are, we've got to assume that they are in places that might impede our movement. The best way (to find them) is local knowledge. Afghans probably know where they are.

Tactics: Our troops know how to fight and if given the right orders and the right resources they'll do a fine job.

U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark (ret.), a former NATO supreme commander, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. David Grange (ret.) and Air Force Maj. Gen. Don Shepperd (ret.) are serving as CNN military analysts during the war against terror. Their briefings will appear daily on CNN.com.

EDITOR'S NOTE: CNN is sensitive to reporting any information that could endanger lives or operations.


Maj. Gen. Wesley Clark: Air campaign intensifying

October 16, 2001

Update: The air campaign is still increasing in intensity. And I think the progress that's evident in disabling the threat is clear because now they are able to use the AC-130 gunship overhead. That's a sign that a certain amount of progress has been made in disabling any air defenses.

Impact: The AC-130 is so very effective against ground forces. It's the sighting and the guns. It's a very good platform. It gives you a better ability to minimize collateral damage. The noose is being tightened around the Taliban forces out in the field.

Strategy: The strategic piece of it right now is to balance off the intensification of the air campaign with Pakistan and other Islamic countries. Then the level of concern in the so-called Arab street is manageable -- partly a matter of not getting civilians hurt and it's just partly a matter of, if you keep saying that the campaign is getting bigger and stronger and heavier, then it arouses more ire in the Muslim world.

Tactics: We can't see whether the special forces are in there on the ground and how they might be operating. So that's really still the key question mark. But the use of the AC-130 would follow ... standard approaches in the past.



Gunship delivers fearsome firepower
AC-130 is put to work battering Taliban targets in Kandahar

By Tom Bowman
Sun National Staff
Originally published October 17, 2001

WASHINGTON - During the Vietnam War, they nicknamed it "Puff the Magic Dragon" because at night the torrent of bullets looked like a dragon spitting fire. Its successor was a larger, more sophisticated aircraft dubbed the "Fabulous Four-Engine Fighter."

Now it is called "Spectre." A newer version is "Spooky." And on Monday two of the AC-130 gunships focused a barrage of fire from their cannons, Gatling guns and howitzers on Taliban forces in Afghanistan

Again yesterday, the lumbering gunships attacked Taliban militia headquarters, garrisons and troops outside the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, said Pentagon officials.

Lt. Gen. Gregory S. Newbold, the operations director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed the gunships were used on a mission that he described as successful, though he declined to provide details.

Newbold, briefing reporters at the Pentagon, said that the gunship is effective because the slow-moving turboprop plane can "loiter" in an area while its crew turns the powerful and precise guns on ground targets.

The resulting noise and intense fire can be compared to the carpet-bombing B-52 for mentally rattling an enemy, he said.

"The psychological effect here is very important," he said.

A special operations officer who has seen the gunship in operation called it "intimidating."

"When it's firing, forget about it," he said.

Flown by Air Force special operations commandos from Hurlburt Field in Florida, the gunship is equipped with two 20 mm Vulcan cannons as well as a 25 mm Gatling gun that can spew 1,800 rounds per minute. When the crew unleashes a torrent of fire from the guns, they have a term for it: "burp 'em." And the plane can shoot log-sized shells from its 105 mm howitzer.

Sophisticated sensors make the gunship even more effective, officials said. Thermal imagery will display the form of a warm body - an individual or, perhaps, an idling tank - against a colder background.

"It's really difficult to hide from thermal," said the officer. Moreover, a computerized targeting system can place rounds with pinpoint accuracy.

"It can put a round every few inches," said Michael Vickers, a former Green Beret and now director of strategic studies with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington.

Pentagon officials said the 97-foot-long gunships, each with a 14-member crew, are operating out of Oman. The aircraft have a cruising speed of 300 mph and a range of 1,500 miles, although with their refueling capability they can remain aloft indefinitely. The planes have a ceiling of about 25,000 feet, though they sometimes operate at 18,000 feet, still above the range of the feared Stinger shoulder-fired missiles.

Many of their missions, however, are conducted at lower altitudes, at which they are vulnerable to anti-aircraft artillery or missile fire, a threat compounded by the gunship's relatively slow airspeed.

For example, during the Persian Gulf war, 14 Air Force special operations commandos were killed when an Iraqi surface-to-air missile shot down an AC-130 as it was circling in the daylight skies of Khafji, the Saudi border town where Marines were battling Iraqi forces.

That sort of threat has been reduced, officials said, because a week of U.S. bombing has given the American military control of the skies over Afghanistan. In addition, Newbold said, the gunships can be protected by fighter jets.

The gunship also is used to supply air cover to special operations forces on the ground. With British and U.S. commandos already linked up with rebel groups, there was some speculation that ground operations had begun when the AC-130s arrived on the scene Monday.

"At first I thought someone was on the ground," said the special operations officer, when he heard reports of the AC-130 in action. But Pentagon officials have been secretive about when such forces would be used, saying only that some of parts of Operation Enduring Freedom will be seen and many others will be unseen.

"It really is to our advantage that the Taliban has to worry about forces coming at them from every aspect," said Newbold. "And that would be from allies; from the Northern Alliance; from us; from air, ground, sea; from whatever capability we have."

Vickers said that with the introduction of the gunship, Pentagon officials are focusing less on fixed targets and more on troops. Kandahar - which Spectre gunships hit Monday and yesterday - is a stronghold for the Taliban, as well its headquarters.

A less sophisticated version of the AC-130 made its debut during the Vietnam War, destroying more than 10,000 trucks and providing close air support for U.S. troops. In 1989, the gunships had a strong role in Operation Just Cause in Panama, targeting the headquarters of Gen. Manuel Noriega's defense forces as well as command and control facilities.

During operations in Somalia in the early 1990s, the gunships provided close air support for United Nations troops.

"It scared the hell out of the Somalis. That was one thing they were afraid of," recalled retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who stepped down last year as commander of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region.

Two years ago, the gunships again made an appearance, in the allied attacks in Kosovo. Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark , former NATO commander, said yesterday that he wanted to use Spectres more during the Kosovo campaign though Pentagon officials would not let him, fearing attacks from surface-to-air missiles.

"They've got guns and sights and [the crew] is well-trained," Clark said.

Copyright © 2001, The Baltimore Sun



Oct. 18, 2001, 10:12AM

Military experts find TV work plentiful

Washington Post

They have stormed the airwaves, these veterans of combat past, serving as televised tour guides to the war against Afghanistan.

Norman Schwarzkopf, the Persian Gulf War commander, on NBC. Barry McCaffrey, the retired general and former drug czar, on NBC. William Cohen, Bill Clinton's Pentagon chief, on CBS. Wesley Clark , who led NATO forces in Kosovo, on CNN. They are part of a small battalion of sound-bite-savvy military men, most of whom have signed exclusive deals with the networks.

"My role is to translate military stuff into something people can understand," says retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner, a consultant to ABC.

"Fox likes to use me because I put it in layman's terms, rather than using the acronyms that confuse people," says retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely, who works for Fox News.

"If I can get four or five minutes on TV, I can actually get two or three useful points out," says retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Perry Smith, who does commentary for NBC and CBS Radio.

They are the media's version of the National Guard, but almost all are men. One exception is Claudia Kennedy, who retired as an Army lieutenant general last year after accusing another general of sexual harassment; she now consults for NBC.

The military pundits who explain the difference between B-1s and B-52s, or between Stingers and Tomahawks, fill a gaping void for the networks, since Bush administration officials are rarely available except at news conferences.

The bookers are also turning to a cadre of national-security experts, terrorism experts, Middle East experts, war-hero senators (John McCain, Bob Kerrey) and all-around wise men (Richard Holbrooke, James Baker, Henry Kissinger).

The former military officers, naturally, aren't volunteering for free. "If you are asking someone to be on 24-hour standby, it is only fair to compensate them for their time," says ABC spokesman Jeffrey Schneider. "All the news divisions have exclusive deals with their experts because in the heat of breaking events, you need to know that your expert is available to your broadcast at a moment's notice."

Competition can be fierce. CNN snared Wesley Clark but failed to lure back Perry Smith, who quit over the network's handling of its 1998 "Tailwind" story -- later retracted -- which accused U.S. troops of having used nerve gas in the Vietnam War. But CNN's Lou Dobbs Moneyline signed Cohen.

McCaffrey, a key Gulf War commander, says a major reason he signed with NBC is that "Tom Brokaw is one of my favorite people in America."

The West Point professor says he's at ease in front of the camera because he's done 3,000 TV interviews in the last five years. (An added plus: He tracked illegal drug trafficking in Afghanistan during the Clinton administration.) But part of McCaffrey's role has been behind the scenes, giving NBC, MSNBC and CNBC "technical advice on how to explain things with maps and graphics and digital-terrain features," and advising a news director "where he might position assets to capture the action as it evolves."

The military experts say they are careful about not revealing classified information they've gleaned in the past.

"I'm not a reporter," says Clark , who retains his security clearance. "I'm not going to use my relationships from a previous profession with good, close personal friends to try to elicit information. I don't want to know things about future operations. I don't want to cross that line."

Their approach is shaped in part by their own experience with the press when they were in uniform.

"A lot of media don't understand the military," Vallely says. "If you haven't served, you don't understand why things are done the way they are."

"Often they will be slanted and they tend to be liberal in their views," Horner says. "But they're there to report the truth."

But McCaffrey says journalists "are almost invariably incredibly intelligent, hardworking and in many cases know more about the issue than you do."



New Rules For Fighting
Civilians Could Pose A Threat

October 17, 2001
By RINKER BUCK, Courant Staff Writer

At Bunker Hill during the American Revolution, when confronted by waves of scarlet-clad British regulars, Connecticut's Israel Putnam gained immortality by ordering his men to hold their fire until they saw the whites of their enemies' eyes.

Such an order at the Uzbekistan border would prove fatal.

There, members of the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division are expecting to confront hordes of Afghan refugees, any number of whom could be armed and dangerous members of the Taliban militia. That reality, division soldiers and retired military leaders say, has resulted in rules of engagement that will allow U.S. soldiers to fire upon civilians who get too close.

During interviews last week, soldiers with the 10th Mountain from Fort Drum in New York, which is presently deploying to countries neighboring Afghanistan, expressed concerns about just this possibility. In Uzbekistan and Pakistan, the 10th Mountain will be performing work similar to that done in earlier hot spots such as Haiti and the Balkans, guarding large groups of refugees, policing borders and manning protective perimeters around military airstrips.

"We know that it's going to be like Vietnam," said Pvt. Chris Thiel of Buffalo, N.Y. "We've had a lot of briefings about what to expect over there. Basically, the idea is to not trust anyone. A little kid could be loaded down and wired for bombs - and to protect ourselves and complete the mission, that kid may have to be taken out."

Retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark , the supreme allied commander of NATO forces during the Kosovo War, argues in a new book, "Waging Modern War," that the new kinds of threats facing America require changes not only in how the Army is organized, but also in the tactics it has to embrace to be successful.

"Of course these soldiers are receiving a lot of training in how to handle civilians because that is the threat we now face in so many of these theaters," Clark said during a telephone interview. "There are basically two psychological preparations you need to be aware of. Green troops are reluctant to fire until they are shot at first, and they may even have trouble recognizing that they are under fire. The second problem that we ran into in Somalia and other places is that the enemy may use civilians as human shields. Of course you want to avoid civilian casualties, but you can't allow your unit to be destroyed."

Clark said that most Army commanders still painfully recall an incident in April 1999, when three American troops serving as part of a NATO peacekeeping mission in Macedonia were captured by Serbian special forces dressed in civilian clothes near the border of Macedonia and Kosovo.

"The American soldiers saw people in civilian clothes and took no action," Clark said. "But then the Serbians pulled rifles out from underneath their coats and opened fire, but it was too late. The U.S. troops were captured as a result. The lesson was that in many of these areas now you can be shot at by civilians. Soldiers have to be mentally prepared to fight back."

The scenario most Army officers seem to dread most is one in which the Taliban fighters are not subdued, but merely scattered. Because Taliban forces are guerilla commandos without a highly organized command structure or uniforms, they can easily melt back into civilian villages near their trenches.

As masses of refugees flock toward the Afghan borders, the Taliban are expected to infiltrate these groups and either escape across the borders or ambush American troops. These tactics proved highly successful during the Taliban's 10-year, hit-and-run war with the Soviet Union.

Once they have set up such barriers as perimeter defenses and border checkpoints, American soldiers will probably not be able to distinguish civilians from fighters and may be forced into situations where they shoot at anything moving toward their established lines.

"Basically, if a weapon is pointed at you, that's hostile intent," said Clark . "It's very important that the rules of engagement for a place like Afghanistan cover all the possibilities. There will have to be an allowance for soldiers to use their own judgment."

"The first order of business is keeping all hostilities at a distance," said retired Maj. Gen. David Meade, who was the commander of the 10th Division from 1993 to 1995 and supervised the occupation of Haiti. "Civilians will stop if a warning flare or some other show of force is made. By definition the people who don't respect your warnings are the enemy."

But Meade worries that the "indistinct and amorphous" nature of the Afghan conflict could make it difficult for soldiers to properly identify the enemy and decide when to shoot.

East Windsor Call-Up

The Pentagon announced Tuesday that 355 members of an East Windsor-based Army Reserve unit will be called to active duty.

The 325th Military Intelligence Battalion is among 35 units nationwide notified Tuesday that it would be activated as part of the reserve and National Guard mobilization ordered by President Bush after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

While individual Guard and reserve members from the state have been called up for active duty, the only other unit activated, in response to the terrorist attacks, is the 103rd Air Control Squadron of the Connecticut Air National Guard.

ctnow.com is Copyright © 2001 by The Hartford Courant
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Guardian Unlimited

Ground war begins

· New phase as US Rangers hit Taliban target
· Up to 200 troops flown in for 'hit and run' raid

Julian Borger in Washington, Rory McCarthy in Islamabad and Richard Norton-Taylor
Saturday October 20, 2001
The Guardian

The ground war in Afghanistan began in the early hours of this morning, as US special forces went into combat against the Taliban militia in a commando assault marking the first land battle since America's anti-terrorist campaign began over a month ago.

Pentagon sources said a "significant" group of US army Rangers was sent on a raid against "a single Taliban target". It was initially unclear when the fighting started but the Rangers had ended the operation by 4am Afghan time (11.30pm BST), the sources said.

CBS News reported that 100 to 200 Rangers were involved in the operation, but the Pentagon would not disclose the numbers involved.

Special forces, including Rangers, have been deployed on the aircraft carrier, USS Kitty Hawk in the Arabian Sea, which is serving as a launching pad for Pave Hawk and Pave Low night-flying helicopters, which almost certainly would have been used to insert and extract the soldiers.

"Their basic purpose will not be to seize anything, but to conduct hit and run operations, pinpoint installations, smoke out terrorists," said an unnamed Pakistani military officer, who said he had been told that special forces were on standby to go into Afghanistan.

The Rangers, formally known as the 75th Infantry, represent the main vanguard of America's elite combat troops. Green Beret special forces have been inside Afghanistan for several days, perhaps longer, but they have been there to liaise with the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance and with Pashtun groups whose loyalty to the Taliban is wavering, not to fight.

The former Nato commander, General Wesley Clark , said yesterday: "It does sound like a new phase in the war."

He said the objective of the in-and-out operation was not to seize or hold ground but to hit a Taliban target which could not be hit from the air.

Downing Street refused to comment on the fighting, but it is believed that British forces were not involved.

Hours before the ground offensive began US electronic warfare planes were broadcasting chilling warnings to Taliban soldiers yesterday, telling them how to surrender and threatening them with certain death if they failed to give themselves up.

The extraordinary propaganda campaign was one of a series of signs that special forces combat operations in Afghanistan were imminent, as helicopter-borne elite units gathered on the Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier in the Arabian sea.

The messages being broadcast from the EC-130E planes - nicknamed Commando Solo - flown by the Pennsylvania National Guard's 193rd special operations wing were brutally straightforward.

They warned that any Taliban soldiers who failed to hand themselves over by the time the ground assault began would be given no quarter.

"Attention, Taliban. You are condemned. Did you know that? The instant the terrorists you support took over our planes, you sentenced yourselves to death," the broadcasts said in Pashtu and Dari.

"You will be attacked by land, sea and air... Resistance is futile," it continued. "When you decide to surrender, approach United States forces with your hands in the air. Sling your weapon across your back, muzzle toward the ground. Remove your magazine and expel any rounds. Doing this is your only chance of survival."

The campaign is designed to minimise resistance from Taliban forces protecting Osama bin Laden and his supporters. The EC-130E electronic warfare plane can break into commercial or military television and radio stations, swamping regions with propaganda.

Even before confirmation early this morning that fighting had begun, the Pentagon said yesterday that special forces units were already behind Taliban lines talking to warlords loosely allied to the Islamist militia, and assisting a CIA operation aimed at persuading them to switch sides before the shooting started.

Alongside the messages aimed at Taliban soldiers, US planes were yesterday broadcasting gentler messages to Afghan civilians. "Attention. People of Afghanistan, United States forces will be moving through your area... Please for your own safety stay off bridges and roadways and do not interfere with our troops," they said.

US officials had said the initial operations in Afghanistan were likely to be "hit-and-run" helicopter raids involving small teams of elite soldiers.



General Wesley Clark was the supreme allied commander, Europe. He now works as a military analyst for the CNN television station:

"You can't win this battle by killing people. You have to win the campaign against terrorism with the broadest possible effort to address the conditions under which people want to kill others. It's the greatest challenge that has confronted the United States. It's beyond the challenge of the cold war because it's dealing with forces even more fundamental. Communism was about the absence of God; this is about the belief in God that some people have perverted."

Copyright 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd.


American jets hit Taliban front line in effort to take Kabul before winter

By Patrick Cockburn in Jabal Saraj, Afghanistan, and Rupert Cornwell

22 October 2001

American aircraft pounded Taliban lines north of Kabul for the second time in two days, as Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, said he wanted to see the Afghan capital captured within the next few weeks before the onset of winter.

Jets bombed the area around Mazar-i-Sharif, the strategic city that the opposition Northern Alliance forces are trying to seize, and the front line north of Kabul.

It was the second major attack in two days day on these positions. Earlier, just before nightfall, there was the distant roar of jet engines overhead. Then US planes attacked the Taliban's forward positions, south of the disused military airfield at Bagram, sending plumes of smoke and dust into the air.

Speaking in Shanghai, where he was attending the Apec summit with President George Bush, General Powell said he expected the Northern Alliance to move more aggressively on Kabul. "It would be in our interest to see this matter resolved before winter strikes and makes our operations that much more difficult," he said.

General Powell, who indicated the opposition was closing in on Mazar-i-Sharif, said America would not necessarily suspend operations for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which starts in the middle of November.

Mr Bush has given the CIA sweeping powers to do "whatever is necessary" to kill Osama bin Laden and destroy his al-Qa'ida network. The agency is expected to direct covert operations of the kind launched at the weekend by American and British commando units in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.

Washington said similar missions were probably taking place again yesterday, testing the Taliban defences and checking hideaways of Mr bin Laden. The first raids were just a "warm up", General Wesley Clark , the former Nato supreme commander, said.

Downing Street indicated last night that the British commitment would go beyond the deployment of covert forces. The Prime Minister's spokes-man said the contribution to the action was unlikely to be only air support and the use of submarines in the Indian Ocean.

He refused to comment on whether the SAS had been involved in ground operations so far, but added: "It is recognised that we have world-renowned expertise in this area ... we are in detailed discussion with the US about other forms of contribution," he said.

He conceded there was a risk of casualties as the military action proceeded, but insisted there was widespread support for the Government's strategy.

In the opposition-held area north of Kabul, military commanders of the Northern Alliance gathered in Bagram's half-wrecked control tower and watched with intense interest as four waves of American aircraft launched attacks.

Ever since the air assault started 15 days ago, they have been asking for air support to soften up the Taliban lines north of Kabul. Down below, soldiers pointed excitedly skywards at the planes and cheered.

Until yesterday, America appeared to be holding back on making an attack here for fear of offending Pakistan, which is determined to prevent its long- time enemy, the Northern Alliance, capturing Kabul.

In response to the American raids the Taliban, which claims to have repulsed Friday's ground incursions and killed 20 to 25 US troops in the process, said it was distributing heavy weapons and mobilising villagers across the country to resist the new threat.

But these claims were dismissed as wishful thinking by General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said US forces would take Mr bin Laden alive if possible, but if necessary "bullets will fly".

As the anti-terrorist campaign was stepped up in Afghanistan, fears of biological terrorism in America grew with confirmation that a Washington postal worker whose office sorts mail for the Capitol was "gravely ill" with the most dangerous inhaled form of anthrax.

© 2001 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd


Taliban line holds as air raids go on
by Robert Fox

American planes hit Kabul again this morning and struck at the Taliban front lines 20 miles north of the city. They also targeted front lines of the Taliban around the strategic city of Mazar-i-Sharif in the north.

Progress of the two Northern Alliance forces trying to take Mazar is reported to be painfully slow. The Uzbek force of Abdul Rashid Dostum does not seem to be able to rally enough troops to break the Taliban lines. The Taliban are reported to be fighting back fiercely and to have yielded little ground.

Taliban and Northern Alliance forces this week have been locked in their biggest battle of this campaign so far across the Shamali Plain, running north of Kabul.

The Taliban claim that US bombers killed 52 people in a village near Kandahar yesterday. The claim, made through the Afghan Islamic Press agency in Pakistan, says that the people, mostly nomads, were killed in or near the village of Chakor Kariz.

The Pentagon has admitted that a bomb from a US Navy Hornet fighter hit an old people's home in the western city of Herat on Sunday morning. Victoria Clarke, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said the aircraft had been trying to hit a military vehicle storage area when the 1,000lb device went astray, and the home was hit.

"We have no information on casualties," she said. The UN, however, says that 100 people may have been killed or wounded in a military hospital in Herat - which is close to the original Taliban claim made on Monday.

The Pentagon has admitted that a US Navy Tomcat fighter-bomber dropped two bombs on residential areas in the north of the capital on Saturday. It was aiming at military vehicles guarding the outskirts of the city.

Yesterday British Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon said that the US bombing and allied cruise missile attacks had already succeeded in destroying all nine of al Qaeda's main training camps in Afghanistan. "I can now tell you that we have successfully put all these camps out of action."

A total of 34 garrisons and barracks had been destroyed, and according to the Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, "the right conditions have been created for further operations in Afghanistan".

Admiral Boyce said that the al Qaeda guerrillas had been prevented from using their main bases - "it would be unattractive to do overt training there again". Evidence is emerging of a difference of view about the length of the campaign between the military commanders and the politicians in Washington.

Military chiefs like the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Richard B Myers, are arguing for "strategic patience" - a long bombing campaign to weaken Taliban and al Qaeda, and placing less reliance on local allies like the Northern Alliance.

A hint of this was given yesterday in London by the recent Nato Supreme Commander, General Wesley Clark , who is promoting his book on the Kosovo campaign. "Open-ended bombing is favoured by General Myers and Admiral Boyce," he said. "The Pentagon is pushing this thing along as rapidly as possible, because they judge Pakistan is vulnerable."

The UN refugee agency has said it is building an emergency camp for refugees who have flooded into the Pakistani border town of Chaman, with room for 1,000 people

Mr Hoon was due to announce Britain's ground force commitments to Operation Veritas, the British part of Operation Enduring Freedom later today. It has been reported that Britain will commit the carrier HMS Illustrious and up to 1,000 special forces and support troops. The Navy has said that any commitment would be for at least six months, and replacements would be needed faster than that.

Admiral Boyce said the bulk of British forces now on exercise in Oman would be coming home - if only to retrain to prepare for other operations. Latest reports suggest, however, that Mr Hoon is reluctant to make such a long-term commitment at this stage.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd., 24 October 2001



Gen. Wesley Clark: Questions abound for U.S. forces

October 24, 2001

Wesley K. Clark

Retired Army General Wesley Clark is a former NATO supreme commander and a military analyst for CNN

Update: We're continuing to apply pressure north of Kabul, but it's not clear that the pressure is decisive. Therefore, the questions are: Are we being deliberately metered? Is there an absence of targets? Or, is there a holdup on the part of the Northern Alliance in moving ahead?

There's been no major breakthrough yet in Peshawar, Pakistan, where tribal, Northern Alliance and other Afghan leaders, including moderate Taliban, are meeting to discuss a post-Taliban government. That meeting is very important in a campaign like this.

And today, the Pentagon said two Marine Sea Stallion helicopters trying to recover the carcass of a Black Hawk helicopter that crashed over Pakistan last week was taken under fire by someone at an airfield inside of Pakistan. So a key issue is, who's got control of the Afghan/Pakistan border?

Impact: For this operation to be successful, you have to isolate the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan from outside support. You can't have Osama bin Laden and the Taliban be resupplied. And yet we know the Pakistanis have turned back Somalis and others who tried to get in today, and we also know there was some shooting at this airfield inside Pakistan at an American helicopter.

This shows that, at the margins of this campaign, all the conditions have not been set for the success.

As to the airstrikes, if the Taliban are digging in, they're very hard to see from the air. Unless their positions are expertly spotted and reported, they won't be attacked effectively.

Tactics: I've not seen another Ranger raid yet, but that's not surprising. These raids are going to occur at random. We don't want to be in a pattern where every X number of days we do another raid.

The anti-Taliban forces are being refitted and re-equipped by the Russians to some extent. But there are practical difficulties in getting equipment in and training people on it. So it can't be done overnight; a period of days and perhaps weeks are needed to give them even adequate equipment.

Presumably, the Northern Alliance are trying to recruit more people. One of the most important initiatives that I've seen, announced in the British press today, is the training of some 4,000 young Afghans to come in and be a police force in Kabul.

Strategy: In Afghanistan what they're trying to do is basically three things. They're trying to get the Northern Alliance to exert more pressure on the Taliban. They're trying to destroy as much as the Taliban forces to put more pressure on the Taliban directly. And they're trying to locate and infiltrate Osama bin Laden's headquarters.

The diplomatic, strategic, operational and tactical levels all have to be synchronized in this campaign. On the other hand, there's a sort of dynamic tension because the tactical initiative that might spur an agreement -- in other words, the momentum on the ground.

It would be much better if this was over by Ramadan but … it would've been better if the Kosovo campaign was over by Easter, but it wasn't. The military requirements will take priority over the religious holidays, no doubt about it.