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US and Britain to strike terror camps within days
Attacks limited to targets found by special forces War on Terrorism - Observer special
Ed Vulliamy, Washington, Jason Burke, Peshawar, Peter Beaumont and Paul Beaver Sunday September 30, 2001 The Observer
Devastating attacks on bases controlled by Osama bin Laden are set to be launched in the next 48 hours as part of a tightly focused military operation approved by US President George Bush and backed by Britain. The strategy, which is a victory for pragmatists in both Britain and America, is designed to kill bin Laden and his forces, and will be launched in tandem with strikes against air and ground forces of the Taliban regime supporting him.
The operation, which British and US sources say could be launched as early as today, would begin with air and missile strikes to destroy the Taliban's 20-aircraft air force, remove anti-aircraft missile batteries, and destroy Taliban tanks and other armour.
In a clear sign that strikes were imminent, Bush declared last night, after a meeting with military advisers at Camp David: 'America will act deliberately and decisively, and the cause of freedom will prevail.'
In a live radio address, he added: 'We did not seek this conflict, but we will end it. This war will be fought wherever terrorists hide, or run, or plan. Other victories will be clear to all.'
The aim of the first phase, likely to be launched from aircraft with US and British ships in the Arabian Sea, would be to remove any threat from the Taliban for the substantial incursion that would follow.
Sources say this would be in the form of a so-called desant operation - an airborne assault deep into Taliban-held territory - led by helicopter-carried troops of the US 82nd Airborne Division. Sources said that the 101st Air Assault Division has also been ordered to be ready for action.
Also fully mobilised was the 10th Mountain Division, which would be the main ground force in what Bush called an upcoming 'guerrilla war' fought by US and British forces. Although soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division are trained for low-level parachute jumps, any assault is likely be made by first abseiling down fixed lines from helicopters.
American forces would be supported by US Special Forces - including US Army Rangers and Green Berets, and by British Special Forces. British units understood to have been earmarked include mountain warfare cadres of G-troop, 22 SAS Regiment; the Special Boat Service's Mountain Troop - which is trained for cliff assault and Arctic warfare - and the Mountain Leaders' section of 4/5 Royal Marine Commando. All are trained and equipped to operate in mountainous terrain for periods of up to a fortnight without being resupplied.
The US troops are equipped with a specialised version of the Black Hawk attack helicopter and long range MH-47 Chinooks armed with rotary cannon. They would also be able to call on support from AC-130 aircraft - nicknamed Puff the Magic Dragon - which can give ground support with an artillery cannon in its belly.
Initial targets earmarked for the air assault and desant operation include bases controlled by the al-Qaeda around Kabul, in particular those with usable air strips.
Crucial evidence that links bin Laden to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington nearly three weeks ago has been obtained by The Observer . A secret intelligence dossier compiled by an Arab state with a longstanding interest in bin Laden last night revealed that at least one of the 19 hijackers was trained in a camp in Afghanistan run by al-Qaeda and that another is 'close to bin Laden'.
American security sources told The Observer they believe four of the hijackers had spent time in Afghanistan with the Taliban and possibly with al-Qaeda. One, Wali Mohamed al-Sherhi, is believed to have been taught urban warfare and terrorism in al-Farooq training camp in eastern Afghanistan, close to the Pakistan border.
He is thought to have left Afghanistan 18 months ago. The dossier, for the first time, definitely links al-Farooq to bin Laden, naming four men who are bin Laden aides who it says administer and train those at the camp.
Back in Washington, the tight focus of the planned military operation is a victory for the pragmatists in Bush's cabinet, notably Secretary of State Colin Powell. Powell has been involved in a battle of wills with hawks gathered around the figure of Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who would like to see US strikes against a wide range of targets, including Iraq.
It also follows words of caution from America's key ally, Britain. Tony Blair has advised that the only target of military action should be bin Laden's network and, if necessary, the Taliban.
The location of the bases was revealed yesterday by Russian intelligence, which has provided the Pentagon with the most detailed intelligence so far on the network of bin Laden camps.
The news came as British sources claimed that the Taliban was set to flood the west with heroin in an attempt to destabilise its enemies.
US Special Forces were last night already active in Afghanistan, almost certainly involved in scouting and preparing a secure forward airbase in territory held by the opposition Northern Alliance.
There were claims from Afghanistan yesterday that a team of five US commandos has been captured by al-Qaeda. The Qatar-based al-Jezeera television station said al-Qaeda claimed to have captured a unit 'armed with modern weapons and maps of al-Qaeda's bases' in the south-western Helmand province.
The Taliban and the Pentagon denied the report. US officials, however, confirmed on Friday that special forces units - possibly from the US Green Berets or the elite Rangers regiment - had been deployed in Afghanistan on reconnaissance missions.
They hinted that soldiers from the British SAS were also involved. The special forces had been deployed 'in the last few days', the sources told US reporters, and were there to gather information on Taliban positions and strengths, not to search for bin Laden.
Sources in Washington said that with British and American reconnaissance and Special Operations teams already working on the ground to locate targets with laser-guidance and sensor systems, US forces were ready to 'go into the first breach' in territory controlled by al-Qaeda.
Planning groups at the Pentagon will now increase pressure on the White House to expand the action to attack locations in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, with the elimination of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as 'a precondition' to defeating terrorism.
-- Seth (email@example.com), September 29, 2001
Only with a master stroke of good luck, hitting the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, in discovery from some other country's intelligence, could this happen so fast.
-- Wayward (Wayward@webtv.net), September 30, 2001.
Pentagon group continues to urge attack on Iraq
SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Copyright, World Tribune, Fair Use for Educational and Research Purposes Only
Friday, September 28, 2001
U.S. defense chiefs are pressing the Bush administration to launch a massive attack on Iraq in wake of the Sept. 11 suicide attacks on New York and Washington. Pentagon sources said the continuing pressure is coming from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and several leading military commanders. The sources said the chiefs are appealing to President George Bush to destroy key strategic installations around Iraq that were rebuilt in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war. The administration, the sources said, is being urged to strike Baghdad after a U.S. attack on Afghanistan. They said the United States has amassed enough forces for major attack on both countries.
U.S. military commanders said they expect an offensive to be launched soon. They said Turkey would be a launching pad for U.S. and British attacks against terrorist targets. "We have to eradicate this international illness," Gen. Carlton Fulford, deputy commander of U.S. military forces in Europe, said. "In the course of time, our real friends will reveal themselves. We believe that Turkey would take place among our real friends."
Still, the State Department as well as National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice are said to oppose any offensive against Iraq. U.S. defense sources said Britain, which will be Washington's most active coalition partner, also opposes a war against the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
On Friday, the USA Today reported that U.S. special forces have been in Afghanistan searching for Bin Laden for the last two weeks. The newspaper said the forces arrived from neighboring Pakistan.
"This will be a multifaceted, multidimensional campaign," U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Henry Shelton, who did not confirm the report, said. "The Al Qaida organization happens to be a priority right now simply because it's — I think — clear knowledge that they were involved in both the World Trade Center as well as the Pentagon."
On Thursday, British and U.S. warplanes attacked Iraqi anti-aircraft batteries in southern Iraq. Officials said the planes returned safely to base. In London, Britain's Defense Ministry said the planes reported accurate hits of anti-aircraft batteries and a command and control center. "Initial damage assessment is that the actions were successful and there are no indications that any collateral damage or civilian casualties have been caused," a ministry statement said. For its part, Iraq has denied any link to the Islamic suicide attacks in New York and Washington.
-- Robert Riggs (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 30, 2001.