Reliance on pack animals hampers US effort to arm alliancegreenspun.com : LUSENET : Current News - Homefront Preparations : One Thread
Reliance on animals hits US effort to arm alliance
By Richard Wolffe in Washington and David White in London
Published: October 29 2001 19:30 | Last Updated: October 29 2001 21:46 US efforts to arm the Northern Alliance have been hampered by the rebels' reliance on horses and donkeys to transport munitions to their frontlines, the Pentagon said on Monday.
Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, blamed the primitive form of transport for the lack of immediate impact of US air drops of military supplies.
"They're moving them frequently - not with vehicles, but with horses and donkeys and mules," he said on Monday. "And it takes time to get them unpacked and moved out to where the people are. So we might be able to answer a call for ammunition one day, and two or three days later those people still have not managed to get that distribution system to work in a way to get it where it belongs."
The Pentagon admitted on Monday it was supporting military action against al-Qaeda terrorists outside Afghanistan as it pursues a global campaign against the network.
Mr Rumsfeld said US military advisers were supporting the Philippine government as it confronts Islamic guerrillas linked to the Abu Sayyaf group.
US forces broadened their bombing targets on Monday to include caves and tunnels where al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders may be hiding.
The number of US strike aircraft has dropped sharply in recent days, from around 90 to 65, as the military campaign has shifted from pre-planned sites to emerging targets in so-called engagement zones across Afghanistan. The shift reflects a greater reliance on American and Afghan intelligence on the ground to identify targets to be hit by laser-guided missiles.
Mr Rumsfeld rejected criticism that the military campaign in Afghanistan had stalled in the face of unexpectedly stubborn Taliban opposition. "There's no question but that a good deal has been accomplished to enable us to then proceed with the second phase," he said. "And the second phase is to create the conditions for a sustained effort against al-Qaeda and the Taliban."
He also rejected the suggestion that the American and British air strikes might pause during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Mr Rumsfeld said that hostilities between Muslim nations at war did not pause during Ramadan, and said he did not expect Taliban forces "to take a holiday" next month.
That contrasted with British officials who on Monday gave the strongest indication yet that there might be at least a partial lull during Ramadan. In London, Geoff Hoon, UK defence secretary, said a pause in the bombing was being looked at "very seriously". But he hinted that this would not amount to a formal suspension for the whole of Ramadan, which runs from November 17 to mid-December. "We cannot afford to allow Osama bin Laden, or al-Qaeda or the Taliban regime to regroup, knowing that they will not face military action," he said.
Mr Hoon took a robust line on the accidental killing of civilians in the bombing, stating that "military conflict is and always will be a messy business". But he said the US and Britain would continue their effort to keep civilian casualties as low as possible. "Minimising the risk to civilians is absolutely central to the way we go about the military action," he said.
In Washington, General Richard Myers, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said an investigation was under way as to why US forces bombed a warehouse managed by the International Red Cross for a second time last week. Gen Myers described the second bombing - which followed sharp criticism by the Red Cross for the initial bombing - as "quite disturbing". President George W. Bush will meet General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistani president, in New York on November 10 to discuss their co-operation in the war on terrorism, the White House said on Monday, Reuters reports in Washington. The meeting will take place on the fringes of the United Nations General Assembly.
-- Anonymous, October 30, 2001