U.S. jets pounded Taliban positions this morning near frontlines outside the Afghan capital in a key northern city. The attack came as Secretary of State General Colin Powell said he wanted to see the Afghan capital captured within the next few weeks, before the onset of winter. British Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected today to announce the deployment of British ground troops in Afghanistan before the onset of winter, and Russian President Vladimir Putin promised today to continue political and military support for the opposition Northern Alliance and said the Taliban should be excluded from Afghanistan’s future government.
This weekend marked the start of the ground war in Afghanistan. More than 200 U.S. commandos and light infantry Rangers landed and fought with Taliban forces near the regime’s spiritual stronghold of Kandahar in a military airport 60 miles to the southeast, some 20 Taliban soldiers reportedly killed before helicopters lifted the U.S. troops out of the area. The opening of the ground war also saw the first U.S. operational casualties, when two U.S. paratroopers also died when their helicopter crashed near the Pakistani-Afghan border.
Yesterday, a U.S. air raid shattered two homes in Kabul’s northern district, killing at least 13 civilians, including three women and four boys ages 8 to 13. Afghan refugees fleeing U.S. air raids said Saturday U.S. strikes destroyed shopping bazaars in Kandahar, killing and injuring shoppers and other civilians. The Taliban, meanwhile, denied a report that the U.S.-led airstrikes had claimed the life of the 10-year-old son of Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar early in the bombing campaign.
The United Nations is set to issue an unprecedented appeal to the United States and its coalition allies to halt the War in Afghanistan and allow time for a huge relief operation. The U.N. said that growing concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation forced the move. It says that 7.5 million Afghans are threatened with starvation unless the airstrikes stop. U.N. officials also said thousands of Afghan refugees who fled the war over the weekend face death from starvation and disease, unless Pakistan opens its borders. An Afghan man died of wounds suffered when border guards opened fire to quell up to 15,000 trapped Afghan civilians pushing and pleading for entry.
President Bush has signed an intelligence order directing the CIA to undertake its most sweeping and lethal covert action since the founding of the agency in 1947. The presidential finding explicitly calls for the destruction of Osama bin Laden and his worldwide al-Qaeda network. The president also added more than $1 billion to the agency’s so-called war on terrorism, most of it for the new covert action. The operation will include what officials said is unprecedented coordination between the CIA and commando and other military units. The CIA has also been operating in southern Afghanistan, trying to win over ethnic Pashtun leaders not solidly behind the Taliban. Bush administration officials have not disclosed other countries against which U.S. covert operations may be directed.
An outlawed guerrilla group in India protesting the U.S. strikes against Afghanistan attacked a Coca-Cola plant in southern India yesterday, blasting dynamite and causing significant damage to the facility. In Spain, more than 15,000 protesters marched to the center of Madrid. Some 3,000 Muslims gathered in the central Indonesian city of Solo. In Thailand, more than 20,000 gathered in mosques to pray for Afghanistan. In London, hundreds of peace marchers, dressed in black and seemingly impervious to a torrential rain, staged a somber sit-in protest just yards from British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s official residence. In Ghent, Belgium, on Friday, 12,000 people marched against the U.S. War in Afghanistan and global capitalism near a European Union summit. And in Greece, about 600 protesters placed large cement blocks across the road leading to the Souda Bay naval base on the island of Crete. The base is being used to supply U.S. forces near Afghanistan.
Today, October 22, is the sixth annual National Day Against Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation, and people will wear black in memory of the victims of police brutality. There will be demonstrations in New York, L.A., Chicago, Detroit and Cincinnati, as well as Asheville, North Carolina, and all across the country. You can find more on that at October22.org.
In Washington, a District of Columbia postal worker this weekend was diagnosed as being gravely ill with inhaled anthrax, leading government officials to order testing for as many as 2,300 more mail employees. The worker is the ninth person to be diagnosed with anthrax, the third to have contracted inhalation, anthrax.