- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 9, 2001

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that U.S. and allied military forces will continue bombing Afghanistan until terrorists there are defeated and the Taliban regime is ousted.

Mr. Rumsfeld spoke to reporters at the Pentagon as U.S. military forces carried out a second round of nighttime bombing and missile attacks on terrorist training camps and military targets associated with the ruling Taliban militia.

"We will not stop until the terrorist networks are destroyed," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "To that end, regimes that harbor terrorists and their training camps should know that they will suffer penalties."

A senior defense official said the latest strikes included raids by five B-1 and B-2 bombers, 10 F-14 and F-18 jets and 15 Tomahawk missiles fired from two ships and a submarine. "Operations are continuing," the official said last night.

At a Pentagon briefing yesterday on the first day's strikes, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: "We did destroy some of the terrorist infrastructure, and we did begin feeding and assisting the victims of the Taliban regime. We are generally pleased with the early results, but have only preliminary battle damage assessment done at this point."

By midnight Sunday, U.S. and British warships and aircraft had struck 31 targets in Afghanistan.

Gen. Myers said the terrorist training camps hit by the strikes were not empty and contained equipment used by terrorists.

The general also said that some shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, including U.S.-made Stingers, were fired at the U.S. and British aircraft. But the jets flew too high for the missiles to be effective, he said.

So far, there have been no downed aircraft or casualties.

Yesterday's targets included early warning radar, air-defense sites, terrorist training camps, terrorist and Taliban leadership sites and Taliban troop concentrations.

And for a second day, U.S. Air Force C-17 transports air-dropped 37,000 packaged meals to Afghan refugees in border regions.

The defense secretary said that the military has targeted Taliban leaders and leaders of the al Qaeda terrorist network, the group responsible for the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

Asked if the U.S. hopes to see the demise of the Taliban, Mr. Rumsfeld said the regime in power in Kabul has "closely linked itself to the foreigners that are in their country called al Qaeda, who are sponsoring terrorism across the globe."

"Now, that being the case, it seems to me that it is perfectly reasonable to feel that the only way that the Afghan people are going to be successful in heaving the terrorist network out of their country is to be successful against that portion of Taliban and the Taliban leadership that are so closely linked to the al Qaeda," he said.

The Pentagon is "working closely with the elements on the ground that are interested in overthrowing that group of people," he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld said there are unconfirmed reports that some branches of the Taliban militia are opposing the senior leadership that is connected to the terrorists.

U.S. Air Force pilots who took part in the raids said the weather was clear over Afghanistan during Sunday's raids.

"It all came together because we train for this," said a B-52 pilot who for security reasons identified himself only as "Woodstock."

"This is what the American citizens expect us to be able to do, and in peacetime we prepare for these eventualities," he told the Pentagon's American Forces Press Service.

Another pilot described the mood in the cockpit as serious. "We keep the cockpit professional and quiet. That's the way we do business," said a pilot identifying himself as Vinnie. "We have a lot more other things to worry about than making emotional comments."

In London, Adm. Michael Boyce, British chief of defense staff, told reporters that all the targets hit Sunday were military installations and 23 were located in remote areas.

"Our target selection processes are absolutely meticulous, and we've taken enormous care to minimize risks to people of Afghanistan," Adm. Boyce said.

Mr. Rumsfeld said it was too soon to say if U.S. strikes, which included attacks on airfields and Taliban MiG-21 jets, had given U.S. and British jets "air superiority" over Afghanistan. "We have not got enough battle damage assessment to answer the question, but I suspect that when we do get it, it will find there's some additional work to be done," he said.

"We believe we've made an impact on the military airfields that were targeted. We cannot yet state with certainty that we destroyed the dozens of military command-and-control and leadership targets we selected," he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld said the war against terrorism is relying on military power and additional forms of pressure on terrorists.

"The cruise missiles and bombers are not going to solve this problem," he said. "We know that. What they can do is to contribute by adding pressure, making life more difficult, raising the cost for the terrorists and those that are supporting the terrorists, draining their finances and creating an environment that is inhospitable to the people that are threatening the world."

British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon told reporters in London that putting ground troops into Afghanistan at some future time is "clearly an option."

"Certainly, it is perfectly possible that the impact of these initial strikes and the ones that are likely to follow will have such a seriously destabilizing impact on the Taliban regime that the use of ground troops may not be possible, certainly not in a hostile environment," Mr. Hoon said.

"But obviously we are preparing a range of military options, and the use of ground troops is clearly one of them."

Rowan Scarborough contributed to this report.

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