The dam is said to provide electricity for the Taliban’s political base in Kandahar.
Also today, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said the United States is ready to send new elite troops into Afghanistan to coordinate with anti-Taliban forces. The additional ground troops are expected to improve bomb targeting and provide support for the Northern Alliance.
Rumsfeld would not specify how many troops are already on the ground, but said he hopes to increase the number three or four fold. He added inclement weather and ground fire had thwarted recent attempts to send in the additional troops.
The defense secretary also noted that the U.S.-British air campaign has made “measurable progress,” noting that the bombing has been going on for less than a month.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the American people know that it’s going to take more than 24 days to deal with this very difficult problem,” he said.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers told reporters that the Pentagon is considering the addition of two new spy planes, including the unmanned Global Hawk. The Global Hawk has a 116-foot wingspan, and can remain airborne for up to 24 hours at 60,000 feet while monitoring the ground and sending real-time video of movements.
Rumsfeld and Myers both denied reports that the U.S. had altered its strategy to openly support the Northern Alliance. They said that the recent bombing strikes supporting alliance troops attempting to capture Kabul, as well as northern Mazar-e-Sharif, were planned before the recent press reports.
In a separate briefing, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said the United States cannot afford to cease bombing during Ramadan.
“We have no choice but to try to go both to the source of this in Afghanistan and to try to root these organizations out wherever we can,” she said. “We have to get about that business. We can’t afford to have a pause.”
Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, starts in mid-November. Many Muslim nations have requested that the U.S. stop bombing Afghanistan during this time.
In a separate move, Turkey announced today that it will send roughly 90 members of a special military unit to aid the United States-led efforts in Afghanistan. The decision to send troops makes Turkey the sole Muslim nation to join the campaign.