Afghanistan: October 17, 2001


Over 2,000 bombs and missiles have been dropped on Afghanistan so far, most of them from heavy bombers flying out of Diego Garcia (B-1s and B-52s) and the United States (B-2s).  Bombing continues. Yesterday the Red Cross claimed that a US bomb hit one of their aid warehouses in Kabul. The US  determined that the damage was from a US 1,000 pound bomb, dropped during the daytime by a navy F-18. Often damage on the ground is  from anti-aircraft shells or missiles falling back to earth (a common cause of damage and casualties in wartime.) The bombing has been almost exclusively with smart bombs, most of them guided by pre-programmed GPS coordinates. But about ten percent of the smart bomb attacks will miss their target for one reason or another (wrong target selected or equipment malfunction.) Bombing raids do not involve a lot of bombs, rarely more than half a dozen at a time. American air power is using reconnaissance (space based and aircraft) are looking for Taliban troops (especially the bin Laden brigades) and military supplies. But there are many places to hide and it is thought that the Taliban is already having troops living in mosques and residential areas. It is feared that the Taliban will also put civilian vehicles in military convoys as a form of protection from bombing. And if it doesn't work, there's another photo op showing US attacks on civilians. 

American bombers have begun hitting more Taliban targets that are near Northern Alliance troops. These hits are near the Tajikistan border, where the Northern Alliance is trying to take Mazar-i-Sharif, a city rumored to be a future base for US operations in Afghanistan. Northern Alliance troops are fighting near the city's airport and American aircraft are hitting nearby Taliban targets.

There is a growing feud in the Pentagon between Secretary of  Defence Rumsfeld and the generals. Rumsfeld is pushing for operations that help the diplomatic battle. The feeling is that bin Laden and his organization can best be destroyed with the help of Afghans. This requires more talk than bombs. The generals have angered Rumsfeld by concentrating on "air supremacy" and the number of bombs hitting Afghan targets. Rumsfeld is more interested in things like having his psychological operations people working with Islamic scholars to develop ammunition for use against Islamic fundamentalists. Rumsfeld is also aware that he has a major problem with the animosity between the Northern Alliance and Pakistan. A new government in Afghanistan will have to work around this. Bombs won't do it, other methods will have to be used and the generals don't seem to be getting in tune with this approach.

Australia will send 1,550 troops to help with the Afghan campaign. This will include 150 commandoes, several warships and some warplanes. The Australian contingent is expected to be in action within a month.


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