- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2001

Three weeks after U.S.-led forces began an assault against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban and the terrorists whom the regime shelters, there are signs of growing diplomatic disquiet and public concern about the direction and pace of the military campaign.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday called for the allies to end the bombing campaign as soon as possible, saying humanitarian aid for millions facing starvation in Afghanistan depended on a cessation of hostilities.
"What is important from our point of view is that we need to see the operation ended as soon as possible so that we can step up our humanitarian effort, get in as much food as we can and prepare for the winter," Mr. Annan told reporters yesterday.
Asked how long a halt the organization would require, Mr. Annan said, "I haven't referred to a halt. What I am saying is that we would want to see this whole military operation ended as soon as possible, particularly the air action, so that we can begin to move in our supplies."
Earlier this week, British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon indicated that officials were contemplating a pause to the air campaign during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. U.S. officials insisted their effort could continue during the four weeks beginning in mid-November.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who delivered a major speech in defense of the war effort yesterday, was responding at least in part to signs that the British public was growing ambivalent about the air campaign.
A poll commissioned by Britain's the Guardian newspaper showed 62 percent of Britons surveyed supported military action, down from 74 earlier this month. Some 54 percent said the bombing campaign should be paused to allow aid convoys to go into Afghanistan.
"I very much doubt whether bombing can do anything but make matters worse," columnist Dr. Malise Ruthven wrote in yesterday's paper. Comparing the military campaign in Afghanistan to Britain's effort to quell political unrest in Northern Ireland, the columnist encouraged, "The IRA [has] come to see that politics will serve their constituency better than violence."
"There is nothing tangible left to bomb," Peter Kilfoyle, former defense minister and a member of Mr. Blair's Labor Party, said over the weekend. He said the strikes only "create more terrorists."
Britain has committed 200 Royal Marines for action in Afghanistan and put another 400 on "high readiness."
British missile-launching submarines and specialized refueling and reconnaissance aircraft also have been supporting the Americans.
Betsy Pisik in New York contributed to this report.


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