Laden 'Trapped' in 30 Square Mile Area Southeast of Kandahar
from an article describing the confidence that bin Laden has
been penned down in a 30 square mile area somewhere to the southeast
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British and American special forces have narrowed their search
for Osama Bin Laden to a hilly area of just 30 square miles
in southeastern Afghanistan, defence sources revealed yesterday.
SAS and American troops have been dropped by helicopter across
the southern approaches to the area, near the Taliban city of
Kandahar, to prevent Bin Laden from escaping into Pakistan.
the manhunt triggered by the September 11 terrorist attacks
on America intensifies, British soldiers have been involved
in firefights with enemy forces around Kandahar.
plan has always been to deny Bin Laden space," said Geoff
Hoon, the defence secretary. "The space he has to operate
in is now very limited indeed." The disclosure reflected
a growing confidence in intelligence circles that they would
find Bin Laden soon.
British defence intelligence source said he was believed to
be "static" somewhere to the southeast of Kandahar.
"For a variety of reasons we can be confident that he has
not been able to move far."
America has imposed what it calls a "total picture"
over the region, meaning that a mixture of satellite, spy plane
and special forces cover should enable it to trace any movement
on the ground.
special forces arrived near Kandahar 10 days ago to block off
escape routes and engage the enemy.
has been about aggression and surprise," said one source.
"We want to send a clear message that there is no safe
way out to the rear of the Kandahar position."
troops have been operating observation posts in the hills and
running search-and-destroy patrols.
they had killed a small number of enemy troops, the psychological
impact of their presence had been "disproportionately significant",
the source said.
fleeing skirmishes around Kandahar spoke of British and American
special forces searching for Bin Laden in the mountains. One
refugee said he had seen a British man questioning a Taliban
Afghans crossing into Pakistan at Chaman said soldiers of western
appearance were near the outskirts of Kandahar, a base for Bin
Laden's Al-Qaeda organisation as well as its Taliban hosts.
and Al-Qaeda forces appeared yesterday to be preparing for last
stands in the two cities still in their hands — Kandahar
in the south and Konduz in the north.
Kandahar, tribal leaders opposed to the regime agreed to allow
Taliban forces to leave the city but said thousands of Arabs,
Chechens and Pakistani supporters of Bin Laden were staying
more were standing their ground in Konduz in the face of a Northern
Alliance offensive expected today. They threatened to massacre
civilians if the Alliance attacked. ...
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- The Sunday
Times [link inactive]
Status as of 11/17/01
(click for large size image)
Massacre Taliban in Kunduz
from article describing the chaos and murder occurring by the
Al-Qa'eda in the besieged northern enclave of Kunduz, Afghanistan:
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bin Laden's elite al-Qa'eda guard, mainly Arabs and Pakistanis,
are slaughtering Taliban troops to prevent them surrendering
to the Northern Alliance army besieging Kunduz, the Taliban-controlled
the first eye-witness accounts of life inside the city, escaping
civilians last night told The Telegraph that an Arab al-Qa'eda
commander had ordered the massacre of 150 Afghan Talibs who wanted
alliance commanders prepared for their latest offensive on Kunduz,
refugees described atrocities committed by al-Qa'eda militiamen.
Ibrahim, 50, who escaped from the city yesterday, said: "A
commander who was foreign gave the order for 150 local Afghan
Taliban to be killed because they wanted to surrender. They
showed them no mercy."
Details of the Kunduz massacre came as alliance forces consolidated
their grip on areas of the country captured from the Taliban
Special forces troops hunting bin Laden believe that they are
now closing in on him. Last night a Ministry of Defence official
said that special forces were "only hours" behind
bin Laden as he fled from one hideout to another.
commanders are convinced that he is constantly on the move in
the mountains of southern Afghanistan, despite Taliban claims
that he had slipped over the border into Pakistan.
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Plan to Rebuild Buddhas Destroyed by Taliban
from article describing plans to rebuild the Buddhas destroyed
by the Taliban in an act of religious-inspired destruction of
stone, back in April, 2001. In 20/20 hindsight, that deplorable
act might be viewed as an omen of the horrendous acts of mass
murder against America which were at that time in the final
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Buddhas blown up by the Taliban in one of their most extreme
acts of vandalism are going to be rebuilt.
1,800-year-old Buddhas, hewn into a cliff face in the Bamiyan
valley in central Afghanistan, were destroyed in April on the
grounds that as "idolatrous" sculptures they offended
The Buddhas were built between AD200 and AD400 by the descendants
of Greek artists who came to Afghanistan with Alexander the
Great - which explains why they wore ancient Hellenic clothing.
The larger one was 174ft high. ...
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CIA Units Playing a Central Combat Role
from article describing the role of the CIA in the Afghan military
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CIA is mounting a hidden war in Afghanistan with secret paramilitary
units on the ground and Predator surveillance drones in the
sky that last week provided key intelligence for concentrated
U.S. airstrikes on al Qaeda leaders, according to well-placed
CIA units, whose existence has not been previously disclosed,
are operating in what amounts to a central combat role in America's
unconventional war in Afghanistan.
The units are part of a highly secret CIA capability, benignly
named the Special Activities Division, that consists of teams
of about half a dozen men who do not wear military uniforms.
The division has about 150 fighters, pilots and specialists,
and is made up mostly of hardened veterans who have retired
from the U.S. military.
division's arsenal includes helicopters and airplanes and the
unmanned aerial Predator drones equipped with high-resolution
cameras and Hellfire antitank missiles. Last week, a CIA-run
Predator provided intelligence resulting in three days of strikes
that killed key al Qaeda leaders.
it was unclear what role CIA information played in the successful
attack on Muhammad Atef, the senior operations lieutenant for
Osama bin Laden whose death was confirmed yesterday by the Taliban.
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Rout of the Taliban
Taliban modernityphobes, claiming god would decide their fate,
refusing to turn over those found to be behind the attack on
America, and 'tis America (and our allies) that all-but vanquished
them in the last six weeks.
behind that story appear in the following excerpts from an article
describing many of the heretofore unrevealed behind-the-scenes
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weeks of bombing. A week of battles across Afghanistan. Now
the Taliban appear crushed, brutally swept from their prized
strongholds. Here we reveal the secret US and British plans
that led to last week's astonishing military campaign.
dawn broke, the party began. In the bombed-out ruins of Kabul,
people gingerly emerged from their shelters last Tuesday and
looked nervously around. All night, they had listened to the
sound of pick-up trucks being gunned in the streets of the Afghan
capital and sporadic outbursts of shooting as vehicles were
was much shouting and headlights flashed across the streets
as panic gripped the religious zealots who had arrived in the
tree-lined city five years earlier. The Taliban were on the
more and more Kabulis appeared on the streets that momentous
morning, people started singing. Illicit cassette players, kept
hidden for years to avoid torture and death for listening to
decadent Western music, blared out songs from every corner.
sounds of Elton John, Sting and Pink Floyd filled the air. Women
removed their burqas, the all-enveloping shawls made compulsory
by the Taliban. Young boys got out footballs and played with
friends at the local stadium, which had been used only for executions
for most of their lives.
poured into barber shops to have their compulsory beards shaved.
Groups gathered outside a shop and watched television for the
stripped off their Islamic turbans. They joined the remains
of unrolled black Taliban turbans that had been hung contemptuously
from the lampposts near the now-empty police stations.
wore jeans again. People danced. People laughed. Some people
cried. 'We are free!' shouted Noor Mohammed, 57, as he danced
with a tape player outside a tea shop. Kabul had been liberated.
There were wild celebrations, though nobody knew what the future
24 hours earlier, the city had been paralysed by fear as the
Taliban insisted they would die rather than flee under American
bombardment. But Kabul fell before American and British-led
forces had got to within two miles of the city suburbs. It seemed
like an accidental victory in a country that had never been
conquered. It was not.
weeks, away from the eyes of the media and the rest of the world,
America and Britain had been plotting a strategy that was to
result in what appeared to be an overwhelming victory in their
campaign against terrorists using Afghanistan as a base for
a war against the West.
stunning sweep through the country was the culmination of a
carefully orchestrated campaign that has confounded the critics.
for the first time, The Observer can reveal the secret details
of how the military campaign was put in place within hours of
Osama bin Laden's attacks on New York and Washington - and how
every weapon, from propaganda to misinformation to carpet-bombing,
was ruthlessly exploited in the battle to bring bin Laden to
build-up: Three ways to beat the Taliban
looking at the chances of a successful major ground offensive.
Nearly every aspect of it, discussed and pored over in briefing
documents, was negative.
is an article of faith in military planning that you want to
be mobile and agile while your enemy is fixed and trapped.
ground offensive would reverse that rule, putting coalition
troops in static positions while smaller units of Taliban forces
would rain down fire from their positions in the hills.
was also the logistics problem. Afghanistan was a landlocked
nation the size of Texas. Supply lines to troops at the front
would have to be hundreds of miles long
became a force protection issue,' ... 'Access would have been
difficult and horribly vulnerable. It was simply not safe.'
further options were discussed: a short and overwhelming bombing
campaign to destabilise the Taliban and allow the Northern Alliance
to advance, and a longer bombing campaign followed by an 'assisted'
advance by the Alliance.
short option had significant problems. Intelligence briefings
drawn up for Blair as he travelled around the world on diplomatic
mission after diplomatic mission, and seen by The Observer,
revealed the essential weakness of the Alliance. It was a rag-bag
organisation of competing forces ...
three, the long air offensive, was gaining ground. ... With
a coalition ground offensive out of the question the Alliance
'would have to be supported militarily', one intelligence briefing
said. This was the key.
Alliance, with American, British and Russian help, would undertake
the ground offensive itself.
became the military option of choice. 'Applying pressure' became
the key phrase. The Taliban would be undermined from the ground
and the air. The Alliance was given military assistance in targeting
its firepower, military kit bags were sent, along with mortars
conventional airpower campaign would prepare the ground for
both parallel and connected campaigns - designed to find and
arrest and kill bin Laden and dismantle his bases, and bring
down the Taliban.
would be a textbook operation, straight out of staff college.
First they would hit al-Qaeda terrorist training camps and Taliban
air defences, then telephone exchanges and other communications
infrastructure, as well as targets grouped under the loose heading
of 'command and control'.
would be so-called 'targets of opportunity' for America's roaming
single-seater navy Hornet bombers: tanks, fuel tankers and military
and B52-Hs would drop cluster munitions on defences around the
cities of Kabul, Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif.
- and only then - would they turn their attention to Taliban
troop concentrations using AC-130 Spectre gunships and so-called
'daisy cutter' munitions, designed to slaughter hundreds of
soldiers at a time.
On 1 November, the Pentagon moved to concentrate its military
power in northern Afghanistan and set the stage for a ground
offensive by the Alliance. Fresh US troops were deployed; some
in the south, where Green Beret and other fighting units landed
to fight alongside the Alliance.
of B-52s pounded the Taliban front lines and its positions north
of Kabul with increased ferocity while bombs rained down on
their defences around Mazar-e Sharif.
In Washington, officials briefed privately on 2 November that
they hoped soon for an Alliance march on the capital of Kabul,
and that the way was being cleared. The Americans were correct.
The first sign of the coming breakthrough was the continual
carpet bombing of the Taliban trenches. Gone were the precision
raids of the previous weeks. Instead huge trails of bombs were
laid across the countryside. They included 'daisy cutter' bombs,
the biggest in the world.
the Alliance's Kabul front headquarters of Jabal Saraj the world's
media were summoned and a parade organised. Alliance soldiers
marched up and down through the dust and conducted a firing
buildup was on the way. Then on 5 November came a final clue.
A rugged but usable airstrip 50 miles north of Kabul had been
built by Alliance men.
first inbound flight was a light aircraft that circled the runway
several times before coming into land. Out of the aircraft stepped
five Americans with their Afghan guides. They looked surprised
to see an American radio reporter, who was quickly shooed away.
They were 'military advisers', in other words US special forces.
The airfield was big enough to land a Hercules and big enough
to bring in massive amounts of ammunition.
on 9 November the attack on Mazar had begun. First, waves of
US planes dropped more than 40 bombs on the Taliban positions,
concentrated in the Chesmay-e-Safa gorge that provides entrance
to the city. It was the thirty-fourth day of US raids since
the air war had begun.
as silence descended, a two-pronged assault began. From the
west the Deh-Dadi military base was quickly overcome, from the
south the city's main airport - its runways still littered with
rusting Soviet-era tank wrecks - was also taken.
the gorge the remnants of the Taliban lines offered little resistance.
It had begun at 2pm. It was over in less than four hours. Taliban
morale had collapsed, shattered by the relentless bombing and
the steady Alliance advance.
The cracks in Taliban rule were rapidly becoming deep fissures.
In their spiritual home of Kandahar far to the south, the strict
Islamic rules that had governed day-to-day life for five years
feared religious police had not been seen for days on the streets
of the city since their headquarters had been flattened by US
Taliban rule was a bubble beginning to burst. The north had
fallen. The west would be next. And the greatest prize was now
within reach - Kabul itself.
the Alliance advances on Kabul
Gol, who had so welcomed the US carpet bombing, could now see
at first hand the effects it had had. As the lines moved forward,
behind a massive artillery barrage, they saw trenches pulverised
into bomb craters, trees twisted and blackened by incendiary
bombs and the burnt-out shells of tanks and gun emplacements.
the Taliban there was little sign. A handful of firefights broke
out but the advances were swift. A front line that had been
frozen for almost five years moved 12 kilometres in a just a
couple of hours. Now they were just 10km from Kabul itself.
They came to a halt. The city was in their sights.
Kabul the Taliban retreat began last Monday afternoon. Taliban
commanders and their fighters jostled for control of cars and
pick-ups that gathered at military bases around the city. Private
taxi cabs were stolen at gunpoint and packed with fleeing fighters.
Belongings and weapons were piled high into the vehicles that
began to stream out, joining a steady flow of refugees also
heading for the hills around the city or down the road that
led south. All the while the bombing continued, the boom of
the explosions spreading fear through the darkness.
last goodnight was sounded from the city's radio station, Radio
Sharia. Allah was praised by the announcer who said he would
return in the morning. It was a lie. A few hours after midnight,
the withdrawal from Kabul was complete.
... The hawks in America and Britain have won. Despite growing
criticism of the war, the speed with which huge chunks of the
country were conquered ridiculed claims that there would be
a huge humanitarian disaster.
military officials yesterday insisted the war was not yet over.
Air strikes against the south of Afghanistan will continue.