US & UK governments defend war tactics : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

US and UK governments defend war tactics By Peter Spiegel in Washington and Andrew Parker and David White in London, FINANCIAL TIMES (UK( Published: October 28 2001 20:08 | Last Updated: October 28 2001 23:40

The US and British governments sought on Sunday to counter growing criticism of the conduct of military operations in Afghanistan as the US-led bombing campaign entered its fourth week.

Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, insisted the air attacks against Taliban positions were making progress, despite dissent in his own Republican party that the Pentagon was not using all the weapons in its arsenal to dislodge the Afghan government.

"Three weeks is not a very long time," Mr Rumsfeld said in a television interview. "For a period we did not have good targets, but that has now shifted because we are getting much better information from the ground."

The US continued to bomb positions north of Kabul and in the strategic town of Mazar-el-Sharif last night, and resumed attacks in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar. But the bombings brought reports of further civilian casualties, including eight members of one family killed in their home in Kabul.

The incident was not immediately confirmed by US officials, but the Bush administration said it deeply regretted previous targeting errors, including last week's accidental bombing of a Red Cross food warehouse for the second time.

"The vast majority of the work done by our military has been outstanding and right on target and it's making a difference," said Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff.

The defence of US actions came after a week where Taliban forces appeared to make battlefield gains and Abdul Haq, an American-backed Afghan opposition leader, was captured and killed by the Taliban.

The UK government also sought to fend off criticism yesterday, and aides said Tony Blair, the prime minister, was preparing for a speech in Wales tomorrow in which he is expected to say that "the cause remains right, the principles remain right, and that the country will hold its nerve because the country recognises that it does take time and patience to achieve the objectives of this campaign". However, Jack Straw, UK foreign secretary, signalled a possible rethink of tactics, saying a halt in attacks was being considered for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which begins in late November.

The statement appeared at odds with US strategy. On Sunday, Mr Card noted terrorists had attacked western targets during Ramadan in the past, adding the US military would "do what we have to do to make sure this war is won".

In Islamabad on Sunday, Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroder said: "I think, if we were to suspend the military action at this point in time, it would make finding a political solution ever more difficult."

Senator John McCain, the Republican respected on military affairs, urged the coalition to press on with its strikes, saying air attacks should be intensified and a "very, very significant" contingent of troops should begin a ground offensive to knock out the Taliban and track down on operatives of the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

"Issues such as Ramadan or civilian casualties, however regrettable and however tragic, have to be secondary to the primary goal of eliminating the enemy," Mr McCain told CBS News.

-- robert waldrop (, October 28, 2001

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