U.S. Strikes Hit Red Cross; Taliban Resistance Still Strong
It was the first time in five days that U.S. strikes did not target the Taliban front lines.
Three big explosions shook Kabul at midday today, and witnesses reported seeing smoke rise from the direction of the airport and the Khair Khana district in the north.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said that three of their Kabul warehouses were on fire after being hit. This is the second time errant U.S. bombs have hit Red Cross buildings.
Red Cross spokesman Mario Musa told Reuters that the warehouses contained food supplies, tents, blankets and other aid supplies intended for Kabul citizens.
U.S. bombs also hit a Red Cross warehouse, which was marked with a large red cross on the roof, on Oct. 16. An ICRC Afghan employee was killed in that strike.
Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem, deputy director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a press conference that a warehouse may have been damaged in today’s strikes, but he did not have details.
In keeping with Pentagon policy, Stufflebeem offered no details on today’s airstrikes, but said Thursday’s strikes, some of the heaviest on Kabul recently, hit 10 different target areas and involved about 80 warplanes. The prime targets were Taliban forces and cave complexes where Taliban or al-Qaida troops were believed to be hiding.
Taliban forces have continued to resist the advance of opposition Northern Alliance forces, despite five days of U.S. bombardment of Taliban front lines.
Northern Alliance forces reported heavy fighting in northern Afghanistan. A spokesman for Northern Alliance senior commander Ustad Attah confirmed that Taliban fighters had recaptured Marmul, a town roughly 10 miles southeast of Mazar-e-Sharif. The Northern Alliance had taken Marmul from the Taliban just days ago.
Despite signs of Taliban durability, President Bush said the military strikes on Afghanistan are eroding the Taliban’s strength.
“We’re slowly but surely dismantling Taliban defenses, Taliban military installations, the Taliban command and control structure — all aimed at bringing the al-Qaida criminals to justice,” the president said in a speech at the White House.
Stufflebeem echoed the president’s confidence when asked if the military was bogged down.
“This is a very complicated operation,” Stufflebeem said. “We’re satisfied with the way the campaign is being conducted… If we don’t have patience, we have to learn to have the patience.”
Great Britain announced today that 200 Royal Marines commandos would join the military effort in Afghanistan. Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram told Parliament the Royal Marines will be stationed on assault ships, with 400 additional special forces troops will be on standby.
Pentagon seeks high-tech solutions
Addressing longer-range problems, the Pentagon said today it is seeking help from private companies to develop high-tech solutions to aid the military campaign.
The Pentagon is hoping to develop ways to detect chemical or biological warfare agents before they are released, and ways to defuse such weapons without releasing the deadly contents.
Other high-tech solutions include devices to map caves, see through walls, identify specific Afghan languages from short snippets of conversations, and identify specific individuals through voice prints.
The Pentagon said it would expect to see results within a year or 18 months.