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The US message to the Taliban

'Attention. You are condemned. Did you know that? The instant the terrorists you support took over our planes, you sentenced yourselves to death'.

Julian Borger in Washington, Rory McCarthy in Islamabad and Richard Norton-Taylor

Saturday October 20, 2001, The Guardian

US electronic warfare planes were yesterday broadcasting bloodcurdling warnings to Taliban soldiers, telling them how to surrender and threatening them with certain death if they failed to give themselves up.

The extraordinary propaganda campaign is one of a series of signs that special forces combat operations in Afghanistan are imminent, as helicopter-borne elite units gather on the Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier in the Arabian sea.

The messages being broadcast from the EC-130E planes flown by the Pennsylvania National Guard's 193rd special operations wing - nicknamed Commando Solo - are brutally straightforward. They warn that any Taliban soldiers who fail to hand themselves over by the time the ground assault begins will be given no quarter.

"Attention, Taliban. You are condemned. Did you know that? The instant the terrorists you support took over our planes, you sentenced yourselves to death," the broadcasts say in Pashtu and Dari. "You will be attacked by land, sea and air... Resistance is futile," it continues. "When you decide to surrender, approach United States forces with your hands in the air. Sling your weapon across your back, muzzle toward the ground. Remove your magazine and expel any rounds. Doing this is your only chance of survival."

The campaign is designed to minimise resistance from Taliban forces protecting Osama bin Laden and his supporters once the ground assault begins. The EC-130E plane can break into commercial or military television and radio stations, swamping regions with propaganda. The Pentagon confirmed yesterday that special forces units were already behind Taliban lines talking to warlords loosely allied to the Islamist militia, and assisting a CIA operation aimed at persuading them to switch sides before the shooting starts.

Preparations for the assault were reported to be complete yesterday. The Kitty Hawk is loaded with night-flight helicopters ready to fly small units of elite troops on "search-and-destroy" missions aimed at the Taliban leadership and Bin Laden's al-Qaida organisation. US military officials said the helicopter-borne assault missions would stop off at Pakistani bases on their way into battle to refuel and to pick up extra troops and equipment.

Pakistani police and soldiers have imposed a tight security cordon around the small airport in Jacobabad, the southern town which is likely to be a principal staging post but where support is strong for one of Pakistan's most hardline religious parties, the Jamiat Ulema-e Islam. Pakistan is to let US forces use airports in Pasni and Dalbandin, close to the Afghan border. Civilian flights to all three have been cancelled. The military regime has said they will be used for "logistical support" only.

The airborne broadcasts followed 12 days of intense bombing aimed at destroying Taliban air defences. Yesterday, US air force F15 Strike Eagle warplanes were in action in support of the Northern Alliance opposition attempting to capture the northern town of Mazar-i-Sharif. An eight-man team of special forces liaison officers was also reported to be travelling with a Northern Alliance general.

Alongside the messages aimed at Taliban soldiers, US electronic warfare planes were yesterday broadcasting gentler messages to Afghan civilians. "Attention. People of Afghanistan, United States forces will be moving through your area... Please for your own safety stay off bridges and roadways and do not interfere with our troops or military operations," they say.

US officials have said that the initial combat operations in Afghanistan are likely to be "hit-and-run" helicopter raids involving small teams of elite soldiers attempting to hunt down al-Qaida members and the Taliban leadership, or direct missile attacks from above by US strike aircraft. At some point, the US-led forces may seize an airbase inside Afghanistan close to their targets.

Britain's contribution to the forthcoming ground campaign could include marine commandos, gurkhas, and paratroopers, defence sources said yesterday. Some 800 Royal Marines are based on HMS Ocean which has ten Sea King helicopters on board. The helicopter carrier is taking part in a large, pre-planned, exercise in Oman which ends on November 1. A squadron of about 50 SAS soldiers are also participating in the exercise. A decision on what British forces the US wants is likely to be made before then.

Guardian Unlimited Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001

-- Swissrose (, October 20, 2001

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