Heavy Bombing of Front Lines Yields Progress, Pentagon Says
The Taliban’s command and control has been so severely damaged that Taliban troops are having trouble communicating with each other and their leaders, Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem told reporters.
Such a lack of communication obstructs the ability of Taliban forces to resupply and reinforce their troops, putting “a terrific amount of stress on their military capability,” Stufflebeem said.
U.S. Warplanes, which now include a significant number of B-52 bombers, pounded the front lines north of Kabul today.
The warplanes struck more specific targets today than and day since the front line attacks began over a week ago. The improved performance may be a result of a small number of U.S. ground forces — less than 100 — that are stationed in northern Afghanistan to communicate with the opposition and to provide targeting information for air strikes.
“We have many more targets now,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in an interview on NBC. “I think today we’re up to something like 80 percent of all of our sorties are focused on the Taliban and al-Qaida forces and the only way that could be done is if the people on the ground were providing much better target information.”
Northern Alliance leaders, encouraged by today’s heavy bombing of the front lines, said the opposition force plans to launch an assault on Taliban front lines north of Kabul within the next few days.
“I hope in the next few days a final decision will be taken and an offensive started as soon as possible,” said Ahmad Ziah Masood, a member of the Northern Alliance’s senior council and brother of assassinated opposition leader Ahmad Shah Masood.
“Every day the Americans are bombing the front line, and now we should do something,” Masood told Reuters.
Initially disappointed in the U.S. Military strategy in Afghanistan, Ahmad Wali Masood, another brother of the assassinated Afghan guerrilla chief, said that the new focus on targeting Taliban front lines will allow the Northern Alliance to make headway.
“[The initial bombing] was a waste of time,” said Masood, who heads the London embassy of the Afghan government ousted by the Taliban. “They should have bombed the front lines and coordinated with us 100 percent. If they’d done so, we would have seen a major result by now.”
U.S. strikes also targeted the southern city of Kandahar, the Taliban stronghold, early this morning. According to Taliban sources, a clinic of the Red Crescent Society was hit killing 11 people at the hospital.
In neighboring Pakistan, Taliban ambassador Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef said that 1,500 people had been killed since the United States launched its military campaign on Oct. 7. The Pentagon has said that casualty figure is extremely exaggerated.
Diplomacy and reaction
In an effort to bolster support for ongoing military action in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will visit a number of countries in the region this weekend.
After a visit to Moscow, Sec. Rumsfeld plans to travel to several countries surrounding Afghanistan to shore up flagging support for the war against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has also set out on a mission to build Arab and Muslim support of the military campaign by encouraging the revival of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Blair met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad today to encourage him to rein in radical Muslim and Palestinian groups committed to violence against Israelis. Later, he flew to Saudi Arabia, and is expected to continue on to Israel on Thursday for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.