U.S. Targets Front Lines in Eleventh Day of Strikes
The raids were concentrated against Taliban positions just behind the front line between half a mile and 2.5 miles south of the city of Bagram, north of the capital, Kabul.
Forces of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance were able to move to within about 6 miles of Mazar-e-Sharif, a key city just south of bordering Uzbekistan, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold said.
Retaking Mazar-e-Sharif, which has been in Taliban hands since 1998, would be an important success for the Northern Alliance, strategically because it would provide an essential supply route, and psychologically because it would hurt the morale of Taliban forces, Newbold said.
Residents in Kabul, who have been without power for the past two days, heard powerful explosions Wednesday when a bomb or missile struck a Taliban military fuel dump.
In Kandahar, the Taliban’s stronghold, attacks on military bases continued into Thursday morning.
According to the Taliban, one U.S. bomb hit a truck packed with residents trying to flee the bombardments in the Chanui village near Kandahar. Abdul Hanan Himat, the Taliban’s Information Ministry in Kabul, said all of the civilians in the truck were killed, but did not provide specific casualty numbers.
A separate Afghan Islamic Press report from Kandahar said up to seven civilians were killed when a bomb struck two houses.
There has been no independent verification of those reports.
Navy strike fighters, Air Force heavy bombers and Special Forces AC-130 gunships — propeller-driven planes that fly low and slowly over a target — are part of the arsenal used to target Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network and the Taliban government harboring him, Pentagon officials told Reuters.
With the anti-aircraft capabilities of the Taliban forces severely damaged, the general strategy of the U.S. military campaign has shifted to closer-range air combat, the Pentagon said today.
“We now have the access to be able to do engagement zones that we might not have had with an air defense capability that we’ve recently taken out,” said Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem, deputy director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In a communication to assure his followers that he was still alive, Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar told his army over walkie-talkie Wednesday morning they are fighting a jihad, or holy war, and that they should not fear death because “the goal is martyrdom” and they would prevail despite death.
“I am confident that, with the Grace of Allah, we will force to his knees and defeat the great infidel,” Omar said.