Capture of Kabul key to U.S. bombing stop-experts
By Tabassum Zakaria
WASHINGTON, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Relentless U.S. bombing of Afghanistan will end when opposition forces capture Kabul, which would signal the downfall of the country's ruling Taliban, U.S. analysts said on Tuesday.
Until that happens the U.S. military campaign will not let up, even if it means bombing during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which starts in mid-November, and into harsh winter months in the unforgiving mountainous terrain, analysts said.
U.S. military strategy is aimed at two main objectives -- toppling the Taliban and destroying the al Qaeda extremist network led by Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden. The twin objectives need different approaches, analysts said. The bombing campaign destroys Taliban military sites to allow opposition forces to gain advantage, but U.S. special operations forces on the ground are required to round up al Qaeda members, they said.
While constant U.S. bombing was likely to end by year-end, U.S. special forces were expected to conduct ground operations in Afghanistan well into next year, analysts said. Even bin Laden's death would not by itself halt U.S. bombing because the goals were to destroy his network and the Taliban which gave bin Laden shelter, analysts said.
The United States has bombed Afghanistan since Oct. 7 after the Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden, who Washington blames for orchestrating the Sept. 11 hijacked plane attacks that killed more than 5,000 people.
"They'll probably stop the bombing campaign when the Taliban collapses," Ivan Eland, director of defense policy studies at the Cato Institute, said. "Our implicit aim is to topple the regime and when that happens I think they can quit bombing," he added.
Without the Taliban, members of al Qaeda would have little protection in a country of many ethnic factions who see al Qaeda, which includes Egyptians and Saudis, as foreigners, analysts said.
"On the one hand all of these divisions tend to make it very difficult to forge a better government, on the other hand they make it easier to divide the country militarily," Anthony Cordesman, a military specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said.
But the Northern Alliance will be key to toppling the Taliban, analysts said. "You're going to see Kabul and Kandahar fall to hostile factions," as a sign the Taliban has broken, Cordesman said, referring to the Afghan capital and the southern Taliban stronghold.
Complicating efforts to capture Kabul are the Taliban's apparent use of cities and civilians for protection against bombing, analysts said. Also the Northern Alliance must breach intense fortification of the city by land mines and trenches, analysts said.
"You have a rag tag Northern Alliance force that you have to rely on so I think even with bombing it's going to be a while before they get to Kabul," Eland said.
U.S. special forces will be key to finding and disposing of al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, and if they found bin Laden he would more likely end up dead than alive, analysts said. "I don't have the sense that there is a great deal of appetite for putting bin laden on trial," John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org, said.
Special forces such as the elite Army Rangers will scour the region to capture members of al Qaeda and the Taliban who after interrogation may provide leads to the locations of the leadership, Pike said. "I don't see using the Northern Alliance as a proxy to round up al Qaeda, I think the U.S. government is going to do that on its own," he said.
|Back to News Archirves of 2001|
Disclaimer: This news site is mostly a compilation of publicly accessible articles on the Web in the form of a link or saved news item. The news articles and commentaries/editorials are protected under international copyright laws. All credit goes to the original respective source(s).