of Troops in Big Afghan Push 'Within Weeks'
from an article detailing plans for U.S. and British forces
to open up a northern corridor through Mazar-i Sharif to, among
other things, insure humanitarian aid gets to Afghans in need:
- - begin excerpts - - -
and American forces are about to mount the first significant
ground offensive of the war in Afghanistan in an attempt to
establish a "humanitarian bridgehead" that would bring
winter relief to hundreds of thousands of refugees.
Marines and British special forces are expected to join soldiers
from the US 10th Mountain Division in securing a corridor from
Uzbekistan through enemy positions in northern Afghanistan.
British officials said thousands of troops would act "in
support" of Northern Alliance forces ranged against the
Taliban regime. The aim is to establish a forward base from
which to distribute clothing, food and medicine that cannot
be safely dropped from the air.
The offensive may lead to the creation of tented refugee camps
inside Afghanistan that would be protected by coalition troops.
A senior cabinet minister said: "We have got three weeks
to do this before the winter really sets in."
Once the ground is secure, the operation will begin to relieve
refugees. "We have to do this because, first, there could
be a humanitarian catastrophe and, second, it is politically necessary,"
said a senior official in Washington.
"An important part of the military operation is to look for
ways of entering humanitarian aid into the country," said
Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary.
If a land corridor can be established and protected, US and British
forces could operate inside Afghanistan throughout the winter
without needing the large number of fixed bases that proved vulnerable
to attack during the decade of Soviet occupation that began in
- - end excerpts - - -
Times [link inactive]
Saddam Builds His Monuments, Mothers Abandon Their Babies
from article describing the plight of babies in Iraq and the
irresponsibility on the part of the Saddam Hussein regime in
failing to use available funds to help those in need:
- - begin excerpt - - -
Basra, babies are being forsaken in the dusty streets by their
impoverished mothers. They are, finds Hala Jaber, the victims
of a regime more obsessed with building monuments than feeding
look dead. The seven babies, little more than bundles of torn
sheets, lie malnourished and motionless in a bare, filthy back
room of Basra's main children's and maternity hospital.
oppressive air, filled not with the usual antiseptic odour of
medical facilities but the foul stench of human waste, is stirred
only by the occasional entrance of the cleaner, who bustles
in between mopping wards to quickly wash each infant in the
they are all but left alone. The doctors and nursing staff are
already overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of seriously ill children
in their care.
hospital is doing all that it can, but it is neither equipped
as a nursery nor an orphanage. "We do our best, but I believe
they suffer more for the lack of their mother's care and love.
Nothing can supplement that," one doctor, a consultant
gynaecologist, said sadly.
babies, the victims of a regime more obsessed with building
monuments than feeding its people, were abandoned on the roadsides
or at the entrances of mosques by poverty-stricken families
who can no longer feed them even another mouthful.
had arrived with nothing, after being picked up from the streets
by passers-by. A carton containing a few old pieces of cloth
- which served as clothes - was on the floor near them.
are, perhaps, the lucky ones. Many more don't make it this far.
Doctors at the hospital, which The Telegraph has chosen not
to identify to protect the staff, are horrified by the number
of abandoned infants who die on the streets of Iraq's second
biggest city before reaching their wards.
mothers cannot take care of them," the doctor tells me.
"They have no money and no means to feed them, so they
are now dumping these children. Sometimes the babies are adopted,
other times, like now, nothing happens and suddenly we have
a roomful of them."
is heartbreaking and we really do our best for them, but we
do not have full-time staff and the proper facilities to take
care of them. I have seen good days and some beautiful days
in this hospital, but these are really the bad days."
hospital wrote to the Iraqi authorities several months ago,
outlining the predicament of the infants and seeking help in
having them placed in institutions. There has been no reply.
Last year, Saddam Hussein's revenue from the oil-for-food programme
amounted to $11 billion - money earmarked by the UN for the
relief of the human crisis.
the beginning of the oil-for-food deal in December 1996, a total
of $38.6 billion has been generated. Western governments are
adamant that the oil revenue is more than sufficient to feed
charge Saddam with causing the increasingly poverty-stricken
majority, many of whom are on the brink of starvation.
supporting evidence, they cite the stark contrast between neglected
cities such as Basra and parts of Baghdad, where Saddam is building
monuments to his own glorification and the markets are overflowing
this year, one of Saddam's personal projects, the Mother of
all Mosques - a beautiful white, blue and gold mosque which
sits on an enormous artificial water feature designed in the
shape of the Arab world map - was completed.
mosque, in the centre of Baghdad, is estimated to have cost
tens of millions of dollars and took three years to complete.
Another ambitious mosque to be built on 200,000 square yards
of land nearby has just begun.
money poured into the capital is also evident in the abundance
of new boutiques, electronic retailers and marketplaces, where
only foreigners and rich Iraqis can afford the exotic wares
majority of Baghdad's residents have to satisfy themselves with
their monthly food rations, which consist of basic staples such
as rice, sugar, tea, fat, grains, flour and soap. ...
- - end excerpts - - -
Set for Ferocious Escalation of Ground War
from article describing plans to launch a major ground offensive
in the coming week:
- - begin excerpts - - -
sustained wave of ferocious ground assaults on Afghanistan by
American and British forces is to be launched this week in a
drive to speed up the toppling of the Taliban.
planners have been told to be ready to step up attacks in anticipation
of a breakthrough in international support for an interim government
to take over the country, with the exiled king, Zahir Shah,
as figurehead leader.
the first stage America will concentrate the deployment of special
forces around the key northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, to pave
the way for its capture by the opposition Northern Alliance.
decision was made as Osama bin Laden, the fugitive leader of
al-Qaeda, infuriated the allies by releasing another videotaped
appeal for an Islamic holy war, broadcast by al-Jazeera television.
In Washington, Bush administration officials said the tape showed
that bin Laden was beginning to feel the pressure. A White House
spokesman said: "His expression of hatred and incitement
to violence against innocent people is just one more indication
of how far removed he is from civilised society. This is just
more misguided propaganda."
war against bin Laden and his followers was boosted yesterday
when the Northern Alliance claimed a breakthrough in a new offensive
to take Mazar, saying that it had seized Aq-Kupruk, 45 miles
to the south, after the defection of 800 Taliban troops. ...
- - end excerpts - - -
Spring Invasion If Winter Attacks Don't Yield Victory
from article describing the possibility of a massive invasion
force in Afghanistan in the Spring of 2002 if the attacks over
the winter don't result in the displacement of the Taleban:
- - begin excerpt - - -
days ago, Donald Rumsfeld, the hard-as-nails American defence
secretary, summoned his top military brass to his office at
the Pentagon, still badly scarred from the attack of September
war isn't going well," said the usually mild-mannered Mr
Rumsfeld, his voice rising as he complained at the lack of progress
against the Taliban. "Either we have something spectacular
this weekend or heads will roll."
Mr Rumsfeld did not get the spectacular breakthrough he was seeking,
but by the beginning of last week the pace was at least picking
Behind the scenes in Britain and America, however, an uncomfortable
truth was finally being digested. For all the rhetoric about
the "long haul" ahead in Afghanistan, many in both
countries had hoped that somehow the Taliban would be prised
from control within months - perhaps even by Christmas.
Rumsfeld may not have been as surprised as his generals at the
resilience of the Taliban regime. Now, however, there is a dawning
realisation throughout the American and British military that
it really could take at least a year to win control of Afghanistan
- and that a dramatic land campaign will be necessary to finish
the very least, some military planners believe, a winter of
heavy commando raids is imminent and may still need to be followed
by a spring offensive in which 20,000 troops or more may have
to be put on to the ground.
... British military officials suspect that America is drawing
up contingency plans for something even more substantial: a
full invasion, on the scale of Desert Storm, using the equivalent
of three military corps - up to 300,000 troops - to finish off
the Taliban and flush out the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
the Northern Alliance weak and slow to fight, their analysis
goes, the prospect of large-scale Taliban defections is slight.
Against an estimated combined Taliban and al Qaeda fighting
force of 55,000 men, at least 150,000 troops would be needed
to secure the three to one advantage which military planners
assume any invading force needs - and more to be sure of satisfying
the "overwhelming force" doctrine of General Colin
this thinking, America and Britain, with some support from other
countries, including Australia, France and Turkey, would attack
along the lines of Air-Land 2000, America's updated version
of the Wehrmacht's Blitzkreig and the Red Army's doctrine of
"shock attack", last used in Operation Desert Storm
- something which took four months to plan.
Senior American officials dismiss as fantasy suggestions that
a large-scale ground force might be needed.
Another Washington official cautioned that few people really
knew what was in the works. "This is a military campaign
of great unorthodoxy and the number of people who are really
working the strategy is being kept deliberately small,"
officials are also acutely aware of the political limitations
upon them. True, the public is readier than it has been for
years to commit troops and suffer military casualties - more
so, some suspect, than the generals themselves. However, there
is little appetite for anything that smacks of long-term involvement
such as that in Vietnam.
so, some politicians are beginning to speak out in favour of
the immediate deployment of ground troops - ranging from John
McCain, the Republican senator, who last week urged that a powerful
force be used, to Tom Daschle, the Democrat Senate leader, who
said he would tolerate deploying a substantial force if it proved
a large force were needed in the spring, preparations would
have to begin soon.
Meanwhile, there is the winter to get through - and British
and American planners believe that the cold and snow could well
be turned to the advantage of the well-equipped coalition forces,
making it even more difficult for the Taliban to move around
without being detected.
(click for large size image)
devices will work better because of the heightened contrast
between body temperatures and the cold environment, and may
make it possible to detect the mouths of caves being used as
Taliban hideouts. At a more basic level, as one military planner
put it: "It's hard to wipe away your footprints in the
officials intend running a sustained campaign of quick strikes,
using British and American commandos, throughout the winter,
although they admit that better intelligence will be needed
before these can be mounted.
British official said: "The intelligence is still very
poor from the ground and we are going to have to work that through
Military officials and politicians in both countries are united,
however, in their hope that - against the odds - they may achieve
a decisive breakthrough this winter. Otherwise, both Britain and
America know that, like it or not, they will be forced into a
much more substantial commitment of troops in five months' time.
- - end excerpts - - -