Rumsfeld says airstrikes successful in debilitating Taliban’s air defenses
WASHINGTON (AP) – Displaying the results of U.S. military strikes in Afghanistan, the Pentagon showed before-and-after slides Tuesday of a devastated terrorist training camp, an anti-aircraft site and an airfield.
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said airstrikes that began Sunday have damaged or destroyed more than 80 percent of targets as the day-and-night campaign continued Tuesday.
”As in any military operation, we were not perfect,” Myers said.
The Pentagon said the slides showed big damage at:
– The Garmabak Ghar camp, a collection of dozens of buildings and other structures before the strike and a mountainous landscape with a half dozen scattered structures after. It was fairly empty, Myers said.
-An anti-aircraft site near the Kandahar airfield.
-And a damaged airfield in Shindand.
On the third day of strikes, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said that Afghanistan’s terrorist network and ruling Taliban are feeling the pressure of the U.S. war on terrorism.
”We’re moving along well toward our goal,” Rumsfeld told a Pentagon news conference. He said that goal was to pave the way for a sustained campaign against terrorists and the delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians.
On Tuesday, the Taliban reported strikes around Kandahar, the ruling militia’s headquarters, and the northwestern city of Herat in the morning. Anti-aircraft fire and the roar of jets could be heard in the capital, Kabul, at night.
Because Taliban radar systems, runways and anti-aircraft defense systems had been hit, forces were ”able to carry out strikes more or less around the clock as we wish,” Rumsfeld said.
He said the military operation was increasing pressure already growing from the diplomatic, economic and financial campaign started after the Sept. 11 attacks.
”It’s pretty clear that the Taliban and the al-Qaida are feeling some pressure,” Rumsfeld said.
”It is growing and it is adding pressure every day,” Rumsfeld said of the overall effort, adding he is confident the campaign will be successful.
Rumsfeld declined to say what the next step in the military campaign would be but didn’t rule out ground troops. Special forces have already done scouting missions on the ground in Afghanistan.
Myers also didn’t rule out providing air cover for the northern alliance rebel group trying to overthrow the Taliban, but other officials have said it was unlikely in the near-term.
Correcting something he said Monday, Rumsfeld indicated that medicine has not yet been included in the humanitarian airdrops of food packets to Afgahanistan’s population.
Medicine can’t be dropped from the high altitudes from which the food was being delivered and the Pentagon was planning a different system, he said.
In other developments:
— Gen. Tommy Franks addressed senior commanders, pilots and senior officers on American ships at sea and military bases in the region, calling the strikes ”the beginning of a long and arduous campaign.”
As chief of the U.S. Central Command, Franks is heading the military part of the Bush administration’s war on terrorism. He was addressing at least six sites around the world from his U.S. Central Command headquarters at MacDill Air Force base in Tampa, Fla.
— In Paris, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said Tuesday that France would participate in the U.S.-led military mission in Afghanistan with ”selective” actions, making its own decisions.
He said a French military liaison team had arrived Tuesday at the command headquarters in Tampa to keep informed about the campaign. France has already opened its airspace to U.S. military aircraft, is supplying naval support and has intelligence agents on the ground in Afghanistan, officials have said.
— In separate news conferences Tuesday in Tajikistan, Russian and Tajik officials said Tuesday that American officers had talked with them about using the country’s territory.
The Russian said American officials were interested in basing rescue troops there and the Tajik security official indicated the activities would be humanitarian. The U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital, declined to clarify the discrepancy.
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