Andrew Maykuth Online
The Philadelphia Inquirer
October 26, 2001
`American bombing is so little'
Among foes of the Taliban, frustration with the limited U.S. strikes continued to rise. 

At War With Terror

JABAL SARAJ, Afghanistan - As American warplanes again struck Taliban positions north of Kabul, opposition Afghan leaders yesterday called on the United States to step up an aerial campaign they described as largely ineffective so far.

And Afghan fighters here were baffled by reports that U.S. military leaders were surprised at the Taliban's toughness. Such comments from Washington struck the Afghans as naive, considering that nearly every Afghan male has grown up on war.

"During 23 years of war, we've seen plenty of bombing," said Gen. Hoji Almas, commander of frontline troops around the village of Rabat. "The Russians bombed between 6 a.m. and midnight to no effect. The American bombing is so little. What they've done in five days is not the same as one day's bombing by the Russians."

Almas waved his hand dismissively.

"If the United States is going to rely just on this little bit of bombing, I think it's wrong, a mistake. People thought America was powerful. If they don't achieve their aim, the whole world will mock them like they mocked the Russians."

The 19-day bombing campaign appears to have failed to significantly weaken battle-hardened troops of the Taliban.

"Up to now, we don't understand what America wants, what its objectives are," said Hoji Qadir, an ethnic Pashtun commander whose forces are fighting in mountains near Jalalabad. "We see only bombing, and for the Taliban, this bombing is nothing."

Azimi, the governor of the Kapisa province who like many Afghans uses only one name, said the recent bombing of Taliban positions along the Shamali Plain 25 miles north of Kabul was mild compared with the assaults that Afghans endured for a decade during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.

"People are used to bombing during the Russian times," Azimi said. "The only effect of the American bombing on the Taliban is that some of their supply and logistical bases were destroyed."

Dr. Abdullah, the foreign minister of the Afghan government in exile and chief spokesman for the opposition Northern Alliance, said yesterday that he understood the frustration of military commanders who see the bombs have missed "massive concentrations of Taliban at the front lines."

"We believe if there is better cooperation, there will be better results," said Abdullah, who urged the American military planners to consult with the opposition.

In other developments:

Opposition officials in Uzbekistan said a Taliban commander, Mullah Yusuf, and 10 other Taliban fighters were killed in bombing near Mazar-e Sharif. The opposition also said its troops captured the village of Shurchi on the southern outskirts of Mazar-e Sharif and took 180 Taliban prisoners. The reports could not be independently confirmed.

The Taliban said a U.S. bomb struck a bus early yesterday in the southern city of Kandahar, killing at least 10 civilians in a fiery explosion. The report could not be independently confirmed.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in Washington said that the American attacks were hurting the Taliban as well as No. 1 terror suspect Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist network but that efforts to get bin Laden himself were proving difficult. "It's like finding a needle in a haystack," Rumsfeld told a Pentagon news conference.

Gen. James Jones, Marine Corps commandant, said the Marines' top special-operations unit was ready to deploy to Afghanistan on six hours' notice. He spoke aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Arabian Sea.

Here, a rising chorus of dissatisfaction came on the fifth consecutive day of limited American assaults on the Kabul front, which stretches for 20 miles across the flat, fertile Shamali Plain. Northern Alliance soldiers, protecting the ethnic Tajik stronghold of the Panjshir River valley, have been dug in here since the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996.

Yesterday afternoon a few American jets approached the Kabul front from the north, flying high to avoid desultory Taliban antiaircraft fire, and dropped fewer than 10 bombs on Taliban positions behind the front lines and in the hills overlooking the plains.

There was no sign yesterday that Northern Alliance commanders were organizing their troops to attack the Taliban fortifications outside Kabul.

"I think we have to be flexible," Abdullah said. "If the situation arises, and we can move on Kabul or have to move on Kabul, we should do it."

Abdullah, while calling for more cooperation with the Americans, denied that U.S. military advisers had visited the Panjshir Valley recently or were still present near the frontline positions. Another alliance official, Yonus Qanooni, on Tuesday said the U.S. air strategy had shifted to the front lines this week after a Defense Department entourage visited Northern Alliance officials. home page   
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