The US and Britain launched a massive air attack on Afghanistan last night.
The first planes roared over Kabul soon after a nightly curfew took effect, dropping bombs or firing missiles attargets in the city and near the airport. The curfew means that residents cannot run to safety, and thousands ofresidents began fleeing the capital as dawn broke and the nightly curfew was lifted. The presidential palace inKabul was reportedly hit.
Minutes after the strikes on Kabul, the Taliban’s stronghold of Kandahar also came under attack, provoking a massexodus from the city. The eastern city of Jalalabad was next, and there were reports that smaller towns in the northas well the major city of Mazar-i-Sharif came under fire.
Residents of Kandahar reported panic in the city that is the Taliban’s spiritual stronghold and headquarters ofMullah Omar, protector of Osama Bin Laden. A second wave of attacks launched about two hours later appeared aimed atthe home of Mullah Omar.
The attacks came after a Taliban minister in Kabul offered to release eight foreign aid workers on trial in the cityif the U.S. promised not to strike, and the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan said that Osama bin Laden could be put ontrial in Afghanistan if America chose to bring a prosecution. Washington rejected both proposals.
While the U.S. publicly attempted to build an international coalition to support its war on Afghanistan, only theU.S. and Britain participated in the attack. A senior administration official said: “The fewer people you have torely on, the fewer permissions you have to get.” Last week, Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld toured the Middle Eastin an attempt to gain military support from U.S. allies, but Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Oman, and Uzbekistan refused toallow the U.S. to launch attacks from their soil. Last night’s strikes were launched from aircraft carriers andsubmarines in the Gulf, the British base on the island of Diego Garcia, and from bases in the U.S. Midwest. Theattacks involved 15 bombers, 25 strike aircraft and 50 sea-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles, a Pentagon spokesmansaid.
US military sources say the bombings, which Washington carried out with the help of British military forces, willcarry on for several evenings to come, and the US. defense secretary says the conflict could take several years.
- President George Bush, Jr., speaking to the nation on Sunday.
- Ahmed Rashid, journalist and author of ??Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in CentralAsia, speaking from Lahor, Pakistan.