TOM BEARDEN: The U.S. continued its aerial bombardment in and around several urban areas today, including Taliban military facilities in Kabul. Bombs also fell in Kandahar, the Taliban headquarters city, and Jalalabad, the site of several guerrilla training camps. For the first time in the campaign yesterday, the U.S. deployed land-based fighter bombers, Air Force F15-E's. They flew out of bases in the Persian Gulf. The same aircraft have been patrolling the no-fly zones over Iraq. The military is also reportedly deploying two other specialized aircraft over Afghanistan. One is the RQ-1 predator, an unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicle -- a new version that carries tank- destroying missiles. This is its combat debut. The other is the powerful AC-130, a four-engine gunship capable of firing 1,800 armor-piercing rounds per minute. It's designed to pave the way for and accompany Special Forces on the ground. At the Pentagon today, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was asked about importance of Special Forces in this conflict.
DONALD RUMSFELD: The only defense against terrorism is offense. You have to simply take the battle to them, because everything, every advantage accrues to the attacker in the case of a terrorist. The choice of when to do it, the choice of what instruments to use and the choice of where to do it, all of those things are advantages of the attacker. That means that we simply must go and find them. How do you do that? You don't do it with conventional capabilities; you do it with unconventional capabilities.
TOM BEARDEN: Over the past week, there have been increasing reports from Afghanistan of civilian casualties. In Kabul today, eyewitnesses reportedly said the bombing killed five civilians overnight. The Taliban says the campaign has resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties.
DONALD RUMSFELD: The numbers the Taliban has been floating out in the media we are certain are false in terms of large numbers like that.
TOM BEARDEN: Rumsfeld said civilian casualties can occur in three ways.
DONALD RUMSFELD: One is from the air, which would be coalition forces; another is from the ground, the ground fire, AAA and ground missiles that are going up and have to come down, and may or may not be well directed; and the third is there are people fighting on the ground. There are opposition forces that are competing against al-Qaida and Taliban. So an assumption that a particular event was the result of one of those three, without very good information, it seems to me, is somewhat speculative.
TOM BEARDEN: On the ground, in Northern Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance reportedly battled back and forth with the Taliban over the strategic crossroads city of Mazar-e Sharif.
JIM LEHRER: And here now is a report from inside Afghanistan. Alex Thompson of Independent Television News is with the anti-Taliban forces north of Kabul.
ALEX THOMPSON: Mid-afternoon at Jabal Saroj's main military camp and suddenly things look a good deal more serious, more professional -- the arrival of several hundred Northern Alliance special troops from training in the far north of Afghanistan. "God is great," they shouted, of course. But also, they chanted "Death to Pakistan," the Taliban's original sponsors. "Death to Osama bin Laden," and "Death to Mullah Omar," the Taliban's spiritual leader. "You have the area commander General Afsalaman told them "done a great job up north and you now you may have to do a tough job up here." So I asked, "did that really mean a move on Kabul?" (Translated) "We are waiting for the order from the minister of defense. Otherwise, we are ready and on standby day and night."
ALEX THOMPSON: But the general's in no hurry. In a base littered with the skeletons of failed Soviet assaults, his heavily outnumbered forces are playing it long. Down at the front, it was the first time they had fired in three days. But that, like much of the firing you've seen from here in recent weeks, was fake, done purely for the TV cameras. However, just to the East lies the vast, wrecked, silent ruin of Bagram, the former Soviet air base, or not quite silent. Here, the shelling does appear to be for real. Taliban positions pounded intermittently this morning by the Northern Alliance, and from the wrecked control tower, you can see the Taliban-controlled villages just the other side of the runway. And the Americans have begun mounting one or two air strikes in this area. And from the Northern Alliance commander at Bagram, praise for the American bombing of the Taliban, but he said four air strikes in the past 48 hours is hardly a meaningful assault.
SPOKESMAN (Translated): It seems from these attacks, that they're not effective in terms of breaking their front line or their strong holds. They're not attacking them at their most critical points.
ALEX THOMPSON: From across the lines, though, more images of the civilian cost of American bombing. Though we can't verify it independently, the al-Jazeera TV Network showed a village hit this morning, as relatives searched through the rubble, at least four people, including a newly married couple, are believed to have been killed. Al-Jazeera say there was no military presence in this village. In the eastern Kabuli suburb of Kulizakam a house several hundred yards from a Taliban base was also destroyed.
SPOKESMAN (Translated): It was around 12:00 when the bomb hit her. My wife, brother, sister-in-law and mother died in t. I don't know about my neighbors.
ALEX THOMPSON: The Americans did hit one military target -- it was reported -- in this case an ammunition dump, though eye witnesses here say seven passersby were killed in the attack -- all of which would strengthen the views of the Northern Alliance on this side of the lines that America should concentrate now on Taliban troop positions where they say there are no civilians to get in the way.