U.S. Targets Taliban Supply Lines
In Tuesday night’s attacks, over 70 U.S. warplanes bombed Taliban targets and frontline troops around Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, and other northern sites as part of the Pentagon’s strategy to destroy Taliban and al-Qaida military supplies.
Recent air raids have struck more than 11 Taliban targets, including troop positions north of Kabul and near Konduz, both areas of Northern Alliance fighting, and sites near Kandahar and Herat.
Around Kabul, the Afghan capital, U.S. Navy F-14 and F/A-18 Hornet jets bombed Taliban frontlines continuously in an effort to buttress Northern Alliance troops as they battle Taliban forces near the city of Bagram, some 25 miles north of Kabul.
Real Adm. John D. Stufflebeem acknowledged Wednesday that there was no clear evidence that the Northern Alliance troops advanced on Taliban troops north of Kabul or the airfield in Mazar-e-Sharif. He did not give further details about other locations of reported fighting
Local sources in Gulbahar, a small northern town, told Reuters that Northern Alliance troops have successfully pushed out Taliban forces. The troops reportedly said they were able to break from fighting because of the intense U.S. air strikes.
Fighting reportedly continues in Charikar, a town north of Kabul, and in Kondoz.
Senior Pentagon officials also said that U.S. bombers and AC-130 gunships targeted sites near Kandahar, in an effort to cut off fuel and food supplies to the Taliban and al-Qaida training camps.
As part of the heavy air campaigns, Stufflebeem acknowledged the errant bombings of Herat and a residential neighborhood near Kabul as a result of the intensification of air strikes.
Over the weekend, Taliban sources claimed that a U.S. bomb destroyed a hospital in Herat, killing 100 people.
United Nations staff in Herat reported yesterday that the bomb did strike a military hospital which was inside a compound.
Pentagon officials explained that a Navy F/A-18 dropped a 1,000-pound bomb intended for a motor pool in Herat, but went astray.
In another incident, a Navy F-14 jet dropped two 500 pound bombs on a residential area near Kabul. Pentagon officials said the intended targets were military vehicles a half mile away.
The Pentagon also confirmed that two U.S. helicopters were fired upon near a Pakistani air base on Friday following a U.S. commando mission in southwestern Afghanistan. This shooting is the first time American forces were attacked within Pakistan.
The two helicopters, one Chinook and one Black Hawk, had been landing on a Pakistani fueling base near Panjgur when they were attacked by small-arms gunfires. The helicopters had planned to retrieve a Black Hawk that had crashed near the Afghan border, killing two soldiers.
The U.S. troops in the helicopters returned fire against the unknown attacker, upon which the commander aborted their mission.
Stufflebeem told reporters today that the Black Hawk has been retrieved and that Pakistani officials improved security for American forces in the area.
As U.S. warplanes continue to search for Taliban troops and leaders among the ruins of military camps, Taliban soldiers and leaders have begun hiding in residential neighborhoods, mosques, and universities.
Today Stufflebeem confirmed reports that the Taliban had taken refuge in villages and universities and hid weapons in mosques.
The U.N. Humanitarian staff in Afghanistan concur with Stufflebeem’s report, noting how villages have become more dangerous since Taliban soldiers moved into them.
Local witnesses have been reporting that the Taliban began arming civilians after the U.S. intensified air strikes around Kabul and Kandahar.
Taliban Education Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi told Reuters that the Taliban would arm civilians rather than surrender power, or hand over terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden, wanted for the Sept. 11 attacks.
“Now our decision is to form armed groups in villages and all provinces of Afghanistan to confront the United States and its friends in a possible commando operation,” Muttaqi said. “We are not going to hand over Osama bin Laden to [the U.S.]….If they were to kill all of the nation of Afghanistan, we will not hand over Osama bin Laden because we have law, we have respect for the honor of Afghanistan, we have the culture of Afghanistan and this is against the culture of Afghanistan.”
“[U.S] casualties will be higher than the Russians because Americans are people of (more) pleasure and comfort,” he said, referring to the losses suffered by the former Soviet Union during the 1979-1989 war.
“As long as one Muslim Afghan is alive he will not surrender to America,” he said.