War not going quite as planned

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Hyperlink: http://www.tbwt.com/content/article.asp?articleid=2144

War Not Going Quite As Planned

By Jim Lobe, Article Dated 10/22/2001

WASHINGTON, (IPS) - Two weeks into Washington's military campaign in Afghanistan, President George W. Bush's ''war'' against terrorism does not appear to be going as well as planned. While U.S. and British leaders are trying to project an air of determination and confidence, concern about the lack of progress on a range of fronts is growing both here and in Europe, where a rising chorus of relief agencies is calling for a quick end to the bombing.

It did not help that U.S. warplanes have missed or mistaken targets, in one case devastating a village located near a former training camp; in another, destroying a Red Cross supply depot whose roof was marked with a large red cross.

Militarily, the Taliban movement is proving to be harder to crack than expected; diplomatically, efforts to forge a post-Taliban coalition also have been frustrated by the contradictory demands of different factions and external powers.

''While there's still hope the Taliban will fall apart over the next few days, they seem to be hanging on better than we expected,'' said one official here. ''And the longer they hang on, the more difficult it is to get the job done.''

Additionally, already-overworked U.S. diplomats are scrambling to deal with sharply rising tensions between nuclear-armed Pakistan and India - where New Delhi this week moved warplanes closer to their border - and between the Palestinian Authority and Israel - where a far-right government minister was assassinated Wednesday.

Armed conflict in South Asia or a dramatic escalation of Israeli- Palestinian violence will almost certainly inflame anti-Western sentiment throughout the Islamic world at the precise moment when the Bush administration is trying to convince Muslims that his war is being waged against terrorism, not Islam. ''We really have more crises than we can deal with at the moment,'' said a Congressional aide. ''People in the State Department feel like a fire brigade.''

The military front has been particularly disappointing. Washington had clearly hoped that the first week of its bombing campaign would prove so devastating to the Taliban's infrastructure and morale that the regime would suffer large-scale defections, leading to its effective collapse by the end of the month. Earlier this week, top Pentagon officials, encouraged by the desertion of about 3,000 Taliban troops in the north, insisted that the bombing had indeed ''eviscerated'' the Taliban's combat capacity.

But in a clear setback Wednesday, Taliban forces successfully repulsed advancing Northern Alliance rebels around Mazar-i-Sharif. The strategic northern city is considered critical to Washington's game plan. Mazar-i-Sharif's capture essentially would evict the Taliban from all but Kabul in the northern part of the country and open the way westward to Herat. Pentagon planners also wanted to use its airport - so far spared U.S. bombing - as a staging base for ground forces, many of which are currently deployed just across the border in Uzbekistan. Even rebel commanders admit that it may take weeks before they can gather sufficient strength to the take the city. The delay compounds an already difficult political situation.

Washington had hoped, by now, to have the makings of a post- Taliban governing coalition in place. Such a coalition would be convened under a loya jirga, or traditional tribal council, convened under the authority of the exiled king, Zahir Shah. It would consist primarily of the ethnic factions that make up the Northern Alliance and anti-Taliban Pashtuns, many of whose leaders live in western Pakistan. Pashtuns account for some 40 percent of Afghanistan's population and constitute the Taliban's ethnic base. Because ethnic enmities run so deep, U.S. policymakers wanted to ensure that the Northern Alliance - consisting of Tajik, Uzbek, and Hazara forces - did not storm the capital before a broader coalition was in place. That is why, to the growing frustration of Alliance commanders, U.S. warplanes have not yet unleashed their power against Taliban defenses just 60 kilometres north of Kabul. The same commanders are even more frustrated in the wake of Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit this week with Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff, who insisted that ''moderate'' Taliban leaders be given a prominent role in any post-Taliban government as a guarantor of Pashtun and Pakistani interests. Powell's apparent agreement to this demand adds new complications to the quest for a workable coalition that could replace the Taliban.

Northern Alliance leaders, fearful of being marginalised, have begun hinting they may be less inclined to cooperate with U.S. strategy. Anti-Taliban Pashtuns wooed by Washington before this week also have expressed dismay. The endorsement of a coalition that includes Taliban elements risks undermining the credibility of Washington's anti-terrorist aims, as noted by Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh. He called the phrase ''moderate Taliban'' an oxymoron. In addition to increasing political tensions among the parties, adding a new element to the coalition also will take time, particularly given the slow progress so far in persuading Taliban military forces to defect.

There are still other complications. Washington has operated under the assumption that, once a new government is installed in Kabul, the United Nations will take responsibility both for peacekeeping and ''nation building.'' But the U.N. Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, has hinted that he has other ideas. Although he expressed optimism that a coalition government could be put together, Brahimi, who spent the late 1990s trying to get all parties to sit down together, cautioned against quick fixes or a U.N. peacekeeping role. ''Afghanistan is a very difficult country; it is a very proud people and they don't like to be ordered around by foreigners,'' he said. ''They don't like to see foreigners, especially in military uniform.'' Such observations cannot be reassuring to the Bush administration as it prepares the ground phase of its operations.

Copyright © 2001 The Black World Today, Fair Use for Educational and Research Use Only

-- Robert Riggs (rxr.999@worldnet.att.net), October 23, 2001


I don't agree with the writer of this piece at all. Right from the beginning Bush said this is a new kind of war and would be fought, long-term, with dogged determination. I don't think any easy, expedited time tables of any kind were set up or used as a quick fix goal to shoot for.

-- Uncle Fred (dogboy45@bigfoot.com), October 23, 2001.

What is particularly worrisome in light of the US' need for Saudi oil, is that the US-Saudi relations seem to deteriorate rapidly. The new chill is obvious, for anyone who has been following the Saudi press with some regularity, (i.e. Arabnews in English). Articles severely critical of the US started to appear about two weeks ago and replaced the usually friendly tenor; in the meantime, the adversarial pitch is getting higher. Non-English European newspapers are already starting to comment on the situation.

The following article is but one example of this latest change of the Saudi mind:

Arab News



America’s free society has no freedom of information

By Farouk Husaini, Special to Arab News

It is presumed that the United States is a free society with all freedoms. Not necessarily.

One of the freedoms they do not have is the freedom of information. But they have the freedom of speech. Any American can curse, abuse or say anything about their president or government officials. They can also - ordinary Americans as well as senators and governors — abuse anyone around the world without the slightest respect to their own or anybody else’s standing in their country.

But the American people are not allowed to hear or see what is happening around the world. They cannot see the pain their proxies are causing or hear the cries of victims for help and understanding. It is a total blackout. There is no TV station showing anything about the world outside the US. The massacres of Palestinian women and children or the demolition of their homes are not shown on any American TV, or printed in newspapers. It is a total censorship so far as the news of the Middle East, Asia or even Europe is concerned. There is no world outside the US. The US media impose full restrictions, curtailment and full censorship on all the news coming into the US.

For example, in our countries, as in most of the world we can, and do, watch tens of TV stations that give local, regional and international news, programs and shows of all kinds. In the US, this is a “no no”. The American people are programmed through their media to be ignorant of, and arrogant toward, the peoples and nations outside the US. They cannot share the happiness and sorrow of others. They are programmed to impose their own thinking and superiority on the world.

It is difficult to get newspapers from outside the US. Foreign TV stations do not reach the American people. Zionism, which controls most, if not all, of the US media, through Jewish ownership, majority shares, editorship, talk show hosts, TV program presenters etc., has a stranglehold on their minds. The people in the US see only what their media show, and listen only to what their media answer and read only what their newspapers and magazines point.

I feel that if the American people had seen the sufferings inflicted on Palestinian children, women and men by the Jews, supported, bankrolled and protected by them, they would have made their leaders and government interfere. In that case, the WTC and Pentagon tragedies would have been averted.

A few days after Sept. 11, I visited a friend living in the United States. He had a dish antenna that showed TV satellite stations. There I watched a press conference with President Hosni Mubarak carried by CNN, being shown on the Egyptian TV in conjunction with CNN. The press conference was also being translated immediately in Arabic for the Arab world while he was speaking in English. I wanted to hear the conference in its original - in English without the interference of translation.

I was surprised to find that it was not being shown on CNN or any other TV station. Later, I did not see even any reference to this conference of the head of state of a major Arab country in any TV program.

I hope some day this curtain of blackout would be removed and the American people would be able to see the world clearly and would not stay ignorant of others. They should be able to watch and see other country’s TV and be able to read foreign press freely and at low cost. It would mean, for the Americans, freedom from their Jewish-controlled media.

Copyright © 2001 ArabNews All Rights Reserved.

-- Swissrose (cellier3@mindspring.com), October 26, 2001.

This article from Saudi Arabia News seems to indicate we aren't out of time yet, that Saudi support is still present --- but eroding steadily as civilian and refugee casualties mount. IMHO, the beginning of Ramadaan and winter, Nov. 15, is the approximate "time remaining" before Saudi support is openly withdrawn, and the cascade downward begins in earnest . . .

Hyperlink: http://www.arabnews.com/Article.asp?ID=10095

Bin Laden needle in a haystack: US

By Muhammad Sadik, Arab News Staff

WASHINGTON/ISLAMABAD, 26 October — The US military campaign in Afghanistan ran into a broadside of criticism yesterday after controversial cluster bombs killed civilians, and opposition forces repeated their claim that the air campaign has so far been ineffective.

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld conceded yesterday that the United States might never catch or kill Osama Bin Laden, prime suspect in last month’s suicide attacks. The US administration conceded that complaints of mounting civilian casualties were damaging, but insisted they were based on lies propagated by Afghanistan’s ruling Taleban militia.

In diplomatic moves, Saudi Arabia threw its weight behind Pakistan and again made clear its support for the US-led international coalition against terrorism. And Americans were told to brace for a long, tough war that may not achieve one of its prime targets, the capture of Osama Bin Laden.

US warplanes hit a crowded bus and worshippers leaving a mosque in their latest raids, the ruling Taleban said yesterday. After darkness fell across the capital, Kabul, jets roared overhead, releasing their bombs in a string of huge explosions that shook the city, one witness said. “The explosions came in a single sequence along with the roar of the planes. They just came boom, boom, boom. It was huge,” the witness said. “There was almost no sign of anti-aircraft fire from the Taleban.” The explosions were among the largest for several nights, rattling windows and door frames in the heart of the war- ravaged city. The targets of the bombs and any damage could not be immediately known because a night curfew is in place.

Saudi Arabia voiced support for the coalition against terrorism. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, speaking to reporters at a joint news conference with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, said the Kingdom was prepared to help its fellow Muslim country. “We will stand together. Whatever Saudi Arabia can do, it will do,” Prince Saud said after talks with Musharraf in Islamabad. “I think it is the duty of every Muslim, particularly at this critical hour, especially since the policy of Pakistan followed by the President Musharraf has been decided by the Islamic Ummah nations at the last conference we had in Qatar,” he added. Prince Saud told reporters Muslim states wanted to help “eradicate terrorism ... which harms the Islamic world and Islamic causes”. He said he had brought Pakistan messages of solidarity and friendship from Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah deputy premier and commander of the National Guard. Prince Saud said the letter was a message of friendship and solidarity with the leadership and people of Pakistan. Musharraf said both the countries maintained very strong relations and referred to an agreement that underscored the joint stand in all the issues of common concern. Speaking after meeting later with Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, the Pakistani leader said the war against his neighbor should be as brief as possible. “We strongly believe that the campaign in Afghanistan must be short and targeted and avoid the loss of civilian lives,” he told a news conference.

“There is no decision taken by the United Nations for the establishment of a peace force at this time,” added Sezer, whose country has supported the idea of a UN-led peace-keeping force from Islamic countries. “When any such decision is taken we will assess the situation accordingly.”

President George W. Bush said yesterday that the media reports about differences between the Kingdom and the United States were simply incorrect. White House Spokesman Ari Fletcher said in a press statement in Washington yesterday that Bush stressed it in a telephone talk with Crown Prince Abdullah, deputy premier and commander of the National Guard. Fletcher said Bush thanked the Kingdom for its contribution in support for the international fight against terrorism. The president stressed that the fight against the international terrorism has nothing to do with the Islam which calls for tolerance. Both sides also discussed the developments in Afghanistan, and the relations between Palestinians and Israel, the spokesman said.

Rumsfeld’s comments were an apparent reversal of Bush’s more confident statements of wanting Bin Laden “dead or alive,” but the defense secretary was more hopeful of toppling Afghanistan’s ruling Taleban, though his words underlined the long-term nature of the war on terrorism. In an interview with USA Today, Rumsfeld said it would be very difficult to capture or kill Bin Laden. “It’s a big world. There are lots of countries. He’s got lots of money, he’s got lots of people who support him. and I just don’t know whether we’ll be successful,” he said. It was just five weeks ago to the day that Bush told a cheering joint session of Congress, with Bin Laden very much on everybody’s mind, “Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.” But Bush also coupled Bin Laden with his Taleban protectors, and Rumsfeld was more optimistic on that score. “Yes, I think there will be a post-Taleban Afghanistan,” he said. “That is easier than finding a single person.”

Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said of Rumsfeld’s comments, “He is a remarkably realistic person. He has always said it (capturing Bin Laden) would be a very difficult task and that this whole thing is not about one man or one terrorist network anyway.” Rumsfeld said the Taleban were proving to be a formidable foe. “These are very tough people,” he said. “They’ve made careers out of fighting, and they’re not going to roll over.” Rumsfeld later in the day distanced himself from his earlier remarks that the United States may not catch Bin Laden. Answering a reporter’s question at the Pentagon press briefing, Rumsfeld quipped: “You bet, we expect to get them.” Explaining what he meant to the Pentagon briefing, Rumsfeld said: “From time to time I suppose things come out of my mouth not quite the right way.” He said “we are doing everything humanly possible” to find Bin Laden but likened the hunt “looking for a needle in a haystack”.

On the warfront, witnesses said aircraft struck hide-outs believed to be used by Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktia province bordering Pakistan. “We have been hearing the roar of US planes and bombing of Gora Tangi area for the past four days,” a witness in the Kurram tribal area in northwestern Pakistan told Reuters. Bin Laden is believed to have built a maze of tunnels in the Gora Tangi area during the US-backed war against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. On the front line between the Taleban and the opposition Northern Alliance just north of the capital Kabul, US aircraft launched waves of attacks on Taleban positions for the fifth straight day.

Three explosions boomed at a Taleban position called Que Tutakhan, located in the hills overlooking Bagram Airport some 29-40 km north of Kabul. Two plumes of black smoke rose from the hills, a strategic lookout for the Taleban to monitor activity at the airport. Despite more strikes against front-line Taleban positions, opposition forces dismissed the US bombing as ineffective and Afghan leaders meeting to discuss replacing the hard-line regime called for the air war to be abandoned. UN spokeswoman Stephanie Bunker said that US cluster bombs had killed eight people outright when they hit a village in the west of the country on Monday night, and that another had been killed later after picking up a bomb. The controversial weapon scatters hundreds of fist-sized high-explosive bomblets over its target, some of which explode on impact and some of which lie on the ground like anti-personnel mines to explode if disturbed.

A Taleban spokesman said the bombs had been used again on front-line militia positions overnight. Bunker said staff from the UN Mine Action Program had been to the village — which she identified as Shakar Qala — after Monday’s attack. “They reported that eight civilians were killed directly in the attack and that one civilian was killed — as happens in these cases — when he went to look at the object, touched it and it blew up,” she said. “They have determined there were 45 homes in that village, 20 of the homes were partially or completely destroyed in the attack.” She said the population had since been evacuated.

A US defense official confirmed that American jets had used cluster bombs near the village, which is on the outskirts of the western city of Herat. Some aid agencies and demining groups have called for the use of cluster bombs, which are designed for use against concentrations of troops and vehicles, to be banned because of the danger they pose to civilians. US forces this week began using the weapon as they intensified their raids on Taleban positions in the hope of clearing the way for ground assaults by the opposition Northern Alliance.

How the small but potentially ferocious Northern Alliance will capitalize on the US bombardment remained unclear. Opposition forces plan to cut Taleban supply lines from Kabul to Mazar-e-Sharif, a senior commander said yesterday. The alliance has threatened to advance on Kabul but not move into the city until a post-Taleban solution has been worked out. Bush has warned of a long war to force the Taleban to surrender Osama Bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda network of radicals, who are suspected of carrying out attacks on US targets — including the Sept. 11 kamikaze attacks in hijacked jets that killed more than 5,000 people and a spate of letters laced with anthrax which have killed three. But after 18 days of airstrikes — and at least one commando raid — the most visible result of the US-led campaign has been a flood of refugees bringing harrowing tales of civilian casualties to Afghanistan’s borders. The head of the International Committee for the Red Cross Jakob Kellenberger warned yesterday that civilian deaths were mounting.

Copyright © 2001 ArabNews, Fair Use for Educational and Research Purposes Only, All Rights Reserved

-- Robert Riggs (rxr.999@worldnet.att.net), October 26, 2001.

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