- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 11, 2001

U.S. air strikes are targeting Osama bin Laden with 15,000-pound bombs dropped on caves near the village of Tora Bora in northeastern Afghanistan, the Pentagon said yesterday.
Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem, deputy director of operations for the Joint Staff, said a "daisy cutter" bomb dropped on the cave complex Sunday was aimed at killing bin Laden. Acting on intelligence reports, U.S. Special Forces troops called in the air strike.
"It was believed that that's where some substantial al Qaeda forces would be, and possibly including senior leadership," Adm. Stufflebeem told reporters at the Pentagon.
Afghan tribal fighters also are battling bin Laden's security forces in the underground cave complex, which employs extensive tunnel networks with multiple entrances, according to news agency reports from the region.
U.S. Marines monitoring roads near Kandahar sought to capture fleeing Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in the region, including Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, but there were no reports of battles yesterday.
Three senior Taliban leaders had been captured by opposition forces since the fall of Kandahar the Taliban's last stronghold but Mullah Omar remains at large. He is believed to be somewhere near the city, said Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, appearing with Adm. Stufflebeem.
The Tora Bora bombing raids, using B-52 and other bomber aircraft, are designed "to get al Qaeda and to get al Qaeda leadership, because we know that this is where they have been."
"This has been their sanctuary, so to deny that means to get at the leadership and to get at those areas that have been their comfort haven," Adm. Stufflebeem said. "So the psychological effects of taking caves away, the intended direct effects of killing al Qaeda members, of denying caves all of that has added up to the intended end-state."
The Pentagon has been unable to confirm whether the daisy cutter was successful in killing bin Laden or other al Qaeda leaders, Adm. Stufflebeem said.
"It's still a hot area, as I mentioned a moment ago, and so with the fighting that's been going on, it's been difficult to get into that area to confirm exactly what happened on the ground," he said.
Mr. Wolfowitz said captured Taliban leaders could be turned over to U.S. forces.
"We've made very clear to everybody what our desires are with respect to these key leaders," Mr. Wolfowitz said.
One opposition leader, Gen. Rashid Dostum, the Northern Alliance commander, "has some people that we're interested in, and I think we're pretty confident that he now has them under good control," Mr. Wolfowitz said, noting the danger of a prisoner uprising like the one last month that led to the death of CIA officer Johnny "Mike" Spann.
Adm. Stufflebeem said the opposition groups are "competing with each other" in the pursuit of bin Laden and other al Qaeda terrorists. The U.S. government has offered a reward of up to $25 million for bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"The more we can get local allies to do that job for us, the better," Mr. Wolfowitz said.
Mr. Wolfowitz said the war in Afghanistan is not over and that more military operations are needed to finish the job, now that the Taliban militia has been driven from power.
The al Qaeda terrorist network in Afghanistan has been disrupted but not defeated, he said.
"The American people have to be prepared for the fact that we may be hunting Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan months from now," he said.
The ouster of the Taliban is an example of what will happen to any other countries that support or harbor terrorists, Mr. Wolfowitz said.
"But it remains the case that large numbers of al Qaeda terrorists, including senior leaders, as well as senior leaders of the Taliban, are still at large in Afghanistan," he said. "It's going to be a very long and difficult job to find them, to root them out. We are recruiting some valuable local allies in doing it, and that's obviously going to be part of the key to success."
As for bin Laden, Mr. Wolfowitz said: "I think we've probably substantially reduced his authority over people who might be inclined to listen to him."
Bin Laden has mustered a large security force to protect him, and finding that force will assist in getting him, he said.
"This is a man on the run, a man with a big price on his head," Mr. Wolfowitz said.
Mr. Wolfowitz said the U.S. military, in cooperation with other militaries in the region, have begun stopping ships that are suspected of carrying fleeing terrorists from Afghanistan.
Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke told reporters yesterday that since the Oct. 7 beginning of the campaign, 12,000 bombs and missiles have been used. About 60 percent of the weapons were precision-guided bombs or missiles, and the rest were unguided gravity bombs.
Mr. Wolfowitz said operations in Afghanistan have helped identify other terrorist groups.
"Among that information are lots of connections to other terrorist networks," Mr. Wolfowitz said. "So we have a much clearer picture even than before that these networks operate with one another."
State supporters of terrorism also must be dealt with, he said.
"And as the president said from the beginning, the problem of state support for terrorism is one that we have to solve before this is over," Mr. Wolfowitz said.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide