AFGHANISTAN - UK commandos set for assaultgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Current News - Homefront Preparations : One Thread
BBC Friday, 26 October, 2001, 05:14 GMT 06:14 UK
UK commandos set for Afghan assault Hundreds of British commandos could soon be deployed in Afghanistan, the UK Government is expected to announce on Friday.
Weeks of mounting speculation will be ended by Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram in a statement to the House of Commons at 1100BST (1000 GMT). He is expected to announce that the UK's extra contribution to the US war effort will be a force of commandos, probably drawn from the Royal Marines.
But the government is playing down suggestions that Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network may have the technology and expertise to assemble a nuclear bomb.
And US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has apparently backtracked on remarks made to a newspaper suggesting that Bin Laden would never be caught.
In Afghanistan, the Taleban say they have captured a top opposition commander, Abdul Haq, according to the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press.
AIP quoted a Taleban spokesman as saying Commander Haq and four companions were seized in Azra, south of Kabul, after a US attempt to help them escape.
US commanders have admitted that Afghanistan's Taleban rulers - who are sheltering Bin Laden - are proving "tough" opponents, and correspondents on the front lines say Taleban morale remains high after four days of regular US bombing.
US aircraft have continued to attack Taleban positions, including areas where they confront opposition Northern Alliance forces.
The BBC's Kate Clark in Shomali, north of Kabul, says the bombing has hit infrastructure targets but the Taleban have not collapsed and their forces appear to be relatively intact.
Up to 1,000 British commandos are now likely to join the airborne operations against the Taleban, aimed at catching the terrorist mastermind.
They will include specialists trained for winter warfare and Arctic fighting, according to defence sources.
There has also been speculation that although British troops will not join raids for two weeks or more, they may spend more time inside Afghanistan than US raiders.
It is believed they will operate from ships off the coast off Pakistan, possibly using Sea Kings based on helicopter carrier HMS Ocean or the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious.
Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon is due to brief British commanders and Prime Minister Tony Blair has already briefed Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith.
Mr Blair has conceded that he does not expect Bin Laden to stand trial, instead thinking it likely the extremist will be killed in military action.
Mr Rumsfeld told a Pentagon press briefing that his comments to a US newspaper that it would be "very difficult" to catch Bin Laden had been misinterpreted.
He insisted: "I think we are going to get him.
"The air campaign has cleared the way for further operations.
"What comes next the Taleban and al-Qaeda terrorists will discover only when it's upon them.
"But I can tell you that they can expect to see and hear more from the American military."
It is understood British ground troops could be drawn from 3 Commando Brigade, which has been on exercise in Oman.
A Royal Marine commando group would be likely to consist of 600 core troops as well as artillery, engineers and logistics making the total up to 1,000.
The UK will be in closer contact with the Afghan opposition Northern Alliance after the UK appointed Paul Bergne, the former UK ambassador to Tashkent, as envoy to the area they control.
In other developments:
A mailroom worker for the US State Department tests positive for anthrax Thousands pledge revenge at funeral of Pakistani militant killed in US air raid on Kabul A Taleban spokesman says a crowded bus has been hit by US bombs in Kandahar with many dead The FBI carries out anthrax tests on an apartment used by three Arab men detained after the attacks Aid agencies step up preparations for a flood of refugees into Pakistan Pakistani authorities reinforce security along the northern border to stop armed volunteers going to fight for the Taleban Two scientists who helped Pakistan become a nuclear power are questioned over alleged links to the Taleban.
-- Anonymous, October 25, 2001