- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2001

The Pentagon said yesterday it now controls the skies over Afghanistan and can intensify strikes on al Qaeda terrorists and their Taliban militia supporters.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said there are signs al Qaeda terrorists might be leaving the country, as military forces conducted a third day of bombing and missile strikes.

Asked about terrorists fleeing, Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters: "We do pick up scraps of information that some things like that are happening. It's very difficult to verify them. But it's pretty clear that the Taliban and the al Qaeda are feeling some pressure."

After a meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, President Bush refused yesterday to rule out the possibility of using ground troops in Afghanistan.

Asked about whether such forces would be deployed, Mr. Bush said: "I'm not going to tell you," adding that information on military plans and intelligence will be restricted.

Mr. Rumsfeld made a similar statement yesterday, saying the military has "not ruled out anything" in response to a question about the insertion of ground forces to battle the Taliban.

A senior defense official said operations are now shifting to attacks on "emerging targets" such as terrorists or Taliban leaders moving around on the ground or new targets uncovered by intelligence.

The third day of attacks was carried out primarily using tactical fighter-bombers, which can more easily hit moving targets. As of last night, the official said it also appeared as though there were no new cruise-missile strikes as a result of the changing nature of the targets, the official said.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said 13 targets were hit Monday, the second day of operations the Pentagon has code-named "Enduring Freedom."

Mr. Bush told reporters after two days of strikes "the skies were now free for U.S. planes to fly without being harassed in any way, and that the missions have been successful."

Gen. Myers said the Pentagon has begun launching both day and night raids, an indication that U.S. and British military forces have knocked out much of the Taliban's air defenses.

"I think essentially we have air supremacy over Afghanistan," the Air Force four-star general said.

"Air supremacy" means that pilots can conduct attacks relatively unimpeded by ground- or air-based defenses. There is still a danger to U.S. and allied pilots from shoulder-fired missiles, which required flying above about 16,000 feet, defense sources said.

The Pentagon released maps showing the targets hit during the first two days of the conflict. Also made public were before-and-after photographs of a terrorist training camp, air-defense site and an airfield struck by missiles or bombers.

The targets included five terrorist training camps. Two of the camps were located near Jalalabad in the northeast and three others were north and south of Kandahar, in the southern part of the country.

Other targets hit included five airfields, 16 air-defense sites and one surface-to-air missile site, four communications sites, two troop garrisons in the northern part of the country, and four command-and-control centers.

Mr. Rumsfeld said there were no U.S. casualties or aircraft losses so far in the military campaign. Mr. Rumsfeld said the military is now looking for "emerging targets" those that are discovered through intelligence and then attacked.

He noted that the military is hitting some targets a second time and that the Pentagon is not running out of targets, "Afghanistan is."

Mr. Rumsfeld said that in addition to predetermined targets, the military is hitting "targets of opportunity" that are picked after intelligence reports are received. "And that means you have to wait until they emerge," he said.

"Now, that's the way it is. They don't have armies and navies and air forces."

"In short, we're moving along well towards our goal of creating conditions necessary to conduct a sustained campaign to root out terrorists and to deliver the humanitarian relief to the civilians in Afghanistan as we are able," said Mr. Rumsfeld.

Gen. Myers said the attacks on the training camps were important even though the sites were not "heavily populated" at the time of the attacks Sunday and Monday.

The camps included buildings used as classrooms where terrorists learned to conduct operations, and firing ranges and other terrorism-training facilities.

Mr. Rumsfeld also addressed reports that four Afghans who worked for a contractor linked to the United Nations were killed in the attacks.

Although the reports could not be verified, "nonetheless we regret the loss of life."

"Terrorists attacked and killed thousands of innocent people in dozens of countries of all races and religions in the United States on Tuesday the 11th," said Mr. Rumsfeld.

"Innocent lives are still at risk today, and will be until we have dealt with the terrorists. If there were an easy, safe way to root terrorist networks out of countries that are harboring them, it would be a blessing. But there is not.

"Coalition forces will continue to make every reasonable effort to select targets with the least possible unintended damage," he said. "But as in any conflict, there will be unintended damage."

Gen. Myers said the results showed many targets damaged or destroyed in the first two days of action.

"We did well in our initial strikes, damaging or destroying about 85 percent of the first set of 31 targets," he said. "But as in any military operation, we were not perfect."

Asked if the military attacks targeted Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and Osama bin Laden, Mr. Rumsfeld said bin Laden did not have a compound as such, although Mullah Omar is known to have several.

"There were some elements outside of one of his compounds that probably were targeted," he said.

Gen. Myers said the U.S. military has the capability of conducting air-support operations for Afghanistan's opposition militias but has not done so yet.

"What we're trying to do militarily, of course, is defeat the terrorists, the network and infrastructure that supports them, not particularly support any particular element," Gen. Myers said. "But as we can help with those kind of targets and people that can help us, of course we'll take that input."

Mr. Rumsfeld said the United States is "encouraging" opposition forces in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban.

The opposition includes armed groups of the Northern Alliance, some tribes in the south and elements inside the Taliban that oppose al Qaeda.

"We would like to see them succeed," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "We would like to see them heave the al Qaeda and the Taliban leadership that has been so repressive out of that country. Don't make any mistake about that."

Mr. Rumsfeld also suggested that the U.S. military might attack opium production efforts in Afghanistan, which have been used by the Taliban and al Qaeda to fund operations. Asked about if there had been attacks on such things as storage facilities for opiates, poppy fields or other drug infrastructure, he said: "Not at this time."

Mr. Rumsfeld said the United States does not plan a long-term commitment to rebuilding Afghanistan after it achieves its objectives.

"The United States of America, and certainly the United States military, has no aspiration to occupy or maintain any real estate in that region," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "We are simply doing exactly what the president indicated, trying to root out terrorists."

Asked about evidence that al Qaeda is trying to make chemical or biological weapons, Mr. Rumsfeld said "terrorist networks have had relationships with a handful of countries that have active chemical and biological programs.

"Among those countries are nations that have tested the weaponization of chemical and biological agents," he said, naming Iraq as one such nation.

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