Military Campaign in Afghanistan
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KWAME HOLMAN: This morning, strike aircraft from the U.S.S. “Enterprise” took off for the first daylight assaults on Taliban and Al-Qaeda targets in Afghanistan, underscoring the Pentagon’s belief that most anti-aircraft capability on the ground is neutralized. The third consecutive day of U.S. air attacks saw fewer planes involved– some two dozen going after fewer targets. Like the last two days, bombing runs and Cruise missile launches began in earnest today after nightfall in the region, around 9:00 P.M. local time.
The Pentagon said last night’s bomber and Cruise missile assaults from destroyers in the Arabian Sea focused on training camps, airfields, and remaining anti-aircraft radars and launchers. The sites were near Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul, Kandahar in the South, and Herat. And near Kabul today, workers excavated the site of a building near communications tower hit by a U.S. bomb yesterday. Four Afghans who were working with a United Nations mine-clearing group were killed. At his Pentagon briefing this afternoon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld talked about the civilian casualties.
DONALD RUMSFELD: We’ve seen the reports that four Afghan men, who may have been associated with a contractor dealing with the U.N., may have been killed. We have no information from the ground to verify this, and we have no information that would let us know whether it was a result of ordnance fired from the air or the ordnance that we’ve seen fired from the ground on television. Nonetheless, we regret a loss of life. If there were an easy, safe way to root terrorist networks out of countries that are harboring them, it would be a blessing. But there is not. Coalition forces will continue to make every reasonable effort to select targets with the least possible unintended damage. But as in any conflict, there will be unintended damage.
KWAME HOLMAN: Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Richard Myers presented the first Pentagon pictures of results of the three days of attacks.
GENERAL RICHARD MYERS: We did well in our initial strikes, damaging or destroying about 85% of the first set of 31 targets. But as in any military operation, we were not perfect. I did, however, promise you some damage assessment, and have some examples of targets and damage. The first one is a terrorist training camp in Southeast Afghanistan near Kandahar. As you can tell from the first photo, it’s fairly empty, but it is part of Al-Qaeda’s infrastructure. Here you see the camp pre-strike, and now here is the post-strike photo.
REPORTER: You said they don’t have armies, navies and air forces but yet you say you have hit ground forces in Afghanistan. I’m wondering if you can give a sense of the size of the troop masses and -
GENERAL RICHARD MYERS: Modest.
REPORTER: Modest. Can you give a rough estimate of what modest means?
GENERAL RICHARD MYERS: Well, you know, they’re in relatively small sizes — hundreds not thousands.
REPORTER: You say you’re running out of targets though, Mr. Secretary, and going back to the field forces, what are you going to continue to hit?
DONALD RUMSFELD: Well, for one thing we’re finding that some of the targets we hit need to be rehit. Second, we’re not running out of targets. Afghanistan is. (Laughing) And I would add that they are emerging as we continue. That is to say that if you figure out a set piece before the fact, select categories of targets, make judgments as to which day or what period you’re going to hit them, and you do that, and then you say that coming up now, and tomorrow, and whenever, that we will be gathering additional intelligence from the ground and through various intelligence assets that will enable us to seize targets of opportunity, that means you have to wait until they emerge. Now, that’s the way it is.
KWAME HOLMAN: Secretary Rumsfeld said U.S. aircraft continue to drop food rations to displaced Afghan citizens, and the Pentagon is examining methods of getting medicines to them as well.