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Pentagon plans to call more than 50,000 reservists
ASHINGTON: The Pentagon expects to call up more reservists than the 50,000 originally believed needed for the war on terrorism, most of them for domestic defence.
The increase reflects heightened concern about potential terrorist attacks on nuclear plants and federal installations as well as an expanding war effort in Afghanistan, where US planes bombed military targets for a 25th day.
Reviewing progress in the bombing campaign in Afghanistan, Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem, deputy director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Wednesday confirmed the use of B-52 bombers "all over the country, including (on) Taliban forces in the north."
He added that the B-52s have the capacity to carry large loads of weapons to carpet-bomb the Taliban's front-line forces.
During a Pentagon news conference, Stufflebeem also said recent attacks have so severely damaged the Taliban's military communications system that commanders in the field are having trouble summoning new supplies and troop reinforcements.
"We believe that puts a terrific amount of stress on their military capability," he said.
Victoria Clarke, spokeswoman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said he had notified the White House that the reserve call-up would exceed 50,000, but she offered no new projected total.
"We're not benchmarking it," she said.
Under the authorization signed by President George W. Bush three days after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Pentagon could activate as many as 1 million reservists. Clarke said she did not expect the total would approach that figure. During the 1991 Gulf War more than 260,000 reservists were called up.
Clarke said Rumsfeld would fly to Central Asia to consult with governments supporting the U.S. effort in Afghanistan. She would not identify his destinations except to say he would also visit Moscow for talks with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on arms control and anti-terror matters.
In early October, Rumsfeld visited U.S. allies in the Gulf as well as Egypt and Uzbekistan, where he worked out an arrangement for the use of an Uzbek air base by American troops. The bombing campaign began Oct. 7, one day after Rumsfeld returned from that trip.
Stufflebeem said the current focus of U.S. bombing includes bunkers and caves thought to be used by the Taliban and fighters of the al-Qaida terrorist network, as well as Taliban troops aligned against opposition forces near the northern crossroads city of Mazar-e-Sharif and just north of Kabul, the Afghan capital.
Stufflebeem showed before-and-after photos of a site bombed by U.S. warplanes in recent weeks near Kandahar, the southern stronghold of the Taliban. He described the site as a major al-Qaida training camp financed by Osama bin Laden, the terrorist suspect being harbored by the Taliban. The photos showed what appeared to be extensive bomb damage.
In explaining why more U.S. reservists are expected to be called to active duty, Pentagon officials said they continue to receive new requests for security forces at federal installations.
Four states already have put Army National Guard units on security duty at nuclear plants. They are New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut. ( AP )
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), October 31, 2001