US troops land near Kandahar: Iranian radio : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

US troops land near Kandahar: Iranian radio AFP (Tehran, October 17)

Tuesday, Sep 11 US infantry landed from helicopters on Wednesday near Kandahar in southwest Afghanistan, stronghold of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, Iranian state radio said. "Informed sources report that US helicopters from the Pakistani-Afghan border have entered Afghan territory and deployed troops around Kandahar", a radio correspondent said.

"It's the second part of the American operation on Afghan soil, which started this morning," it added.

The radio did not give an exact number of US troops to have disembarked or of helicopters used in the operation.

Iranian television later cited witnesses saying there were "exchanges of fire between Taliban forces and American soldiers near Kandahar."

However, neither Washington nor London would comment on any of the information, and the reports could not be independently confirmed.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 17, 2001



Winter waits, and Taleban leaders wait for America to feel the cold The Taleban are laying in winter stores, seizing massive quantities of grain, medicines, vehicles and communications equipment from relief agencies. American air power cannot prevent this. American air power has not destroyed their capacity to terrorise or to steal from the starving. Much of the food came from the United States. This looting is not a “breakdown of order”; in Afghanistan, where there has been no “order” for decades, it is an assertion of power. If anything is breaking down, it is the West’s power to intimidate. That power turns on the conviction that the US genuinely means to fight and win this engagement. The US may plausibly claim to have command of the skies. It no longer looks as though it is commanding the shots in this campaign. Its hesitation to start the next phase looks bad. It increasingly looks — if not to the men employed to tick off targets hit from the air, then to watching publics in the West and, crucially, also in the Islamic world — as though Osama bin Laden was right, after all, that he could never be caught or killed because the US would not take the risk of exposing its troops to close combat.

If the Bush Administration does not seriously mean to hunt down and destroy him and al-Qaeda and, as a secondary objective, to rid Afghanistan of Taleban misrule, it should not have started this campaign. If it does, it needs to make that plain within days — by sending in its own hunters and by using its air power to hit Taleban and al-Qaeda troop concentrations as hard as it is visibly capable of doing, and, equally visibly, is not doing.

The more Washington and London hint at a “long haul” in Afghanistan, the harder the Taleban and al-Qaeda pull on the rope. The more the US is seen to be pulling its punches, the less likely are mass defections. Potential rebels have nowhere to go. To head for the inhospitable hills, less than three weeks before winter blizzards set in, must seem even riskier than dodging Taleban press-gangs and US bombs. Once the fierce Afghan winter arrives, it becomes difficult to exist, let alone to wage war.

This campaign is not going to be won by waiting for the Taleban to crumble, let alone by Colin Powell’s talk this week in Islamabad of bringing “moderates” within the Taleban movement “into the democratic fold, rather than leaving them on the outside to cause trouble”. Even assuming that “moderates” can be found in a band of bigoted religious fanatics that has never yet compromised on anything, not even to show elementary humanity, to let concerns about what comes after a Taleban defeat get in the way of prosecuting this campaign with proper resolution would be to make a dubious best the enemy of the good.

Swords do not turn into ploughshares until they are beaten. The US Secretary of State was one of those who, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, advised George W. Bush’s father to try economic sanctions on Iraq and give them two years to work before using force. General Powell, the son should remember, comes from the cautious wing of the US military. General Powell may have been anxious to assure Pakistan’s President Musharraf, who has urged the US not to allow outright victory against the Taleban by the mainly Tajik and Uzbek Northern Alliance, that Pashtuns will be part of any future Afghan government. That is certainly a concern in Pakistan. But it is nothing like as urgent a concern as getting this war won before opposition in Pakistan boils over — and on the way to being won before Ramadan starts on or around November 15.

“What I would urge the coalition”, President Musharraf told General Powell again and again, “is to achieve the military objectives and terminate the operation.” The Pentagon agrees; it is at last targeting Taleban and al-Qaeda formations ranged against the Northern Alliance. This should help to secure Mazar-i Sharif as a northern foothold to which defectors could rally, US and British forces could use and military and humanitarian lines of supply could run from Uzbekistan. That should be the trigger for land operations.

Further delay would mean a difficult winter war, or waiting until next spring. To wait would be a triumph for bin Laden and a humanitarian catastrophe for Afghanistan and the region. To be too caring of Afghanistan’s future stability could be to destroy Pakistan’s. There is no choice but to step up the pace and to step it up now. Copyright, Times Newspapers Ltd. (United Kingdom), Fair Use for Educational and Research Purposes Only

-- Robert Riggs (, October 19, 2001.

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