Originally created 10/07/01

Military strikes begin in Afghanistan



WASHINGTON -- The United States and its allies launched strikes Sunday against military installations and Osama bin Laden's training camps inside Afghanistan, fighting back after the worst terrorist attacks on American soil.

"We are supported by the collective will of the world," said President Bush, speaking from the White House as missiles found targets halfway around the globe in Kabul, the Afghan capital.

The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, called the assault a terrorist attack and said America "will never achieve its goal."

A senior Pentagon official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched from American and British vessels, including American submarines, in the Arabian Sea.

This official said targets included air defenses, military communications sites and terrorist training camps inside Afghanistan. "This is going to be a prolonged, sustained effort over several days," the official said.

Bush cited the participation of British forces in the initial assault as evidence of the international coalition the administration has labored to build in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks that killed more than 5,000 in New York and Washington.

The president said, "Other close friends, including Canada, Australia, Germany and France, have pledged forces as the operation unfolds."

From London, Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "We have set the objectives to eradicate Osama bin Laden's network of terror and to take action against the Taliban regime that is harboring them."

Of the Taliban he said: "They were given the choice of siding with justice or siding with terror. They chose to side with terror."

Bush spoke less than an hour after the first explosion could be heard in Kabul, followed by the sounds of anti-aircraft fire. Power went off throughout the city almost immediately after the first of five thunderous blasts.

Bush said the military strike would be accompanied by the delivery of food, medicine and other supplies needed to sustain the people of Afghanistan. That was expected to start soon.

He said the strike was aimed at the Taliban, the ruling regime that harbors bin Laden, long identified by administration officials as the mastermind behind last month's attacks in the United States.

The president had issued a series of demands in the days following the strikes at the World Trade Center and Pentagon - all of them ignored.

"Now the Taliban will pay a price," he vowed.

"Today we focus on Afghanistan," Bush said, "but the battle is broader."

"We will not fail."

Washington's switch to war footing came quickly Sunday morning.

Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage notified members of Congress before the attack, and the State Department alerted all U.S. diplomatic posts around the world to take extra security precautions.

Bush and Powell began making calls to world leaders to explain the U.S. action. Bush spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin in advance of the strike, the Kremlin press office said.

Putin has become an important supporter of the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism, opening Russia's airspace to U.S. deliveries of humanitarian aid and helping lobby Central Asian nations to lend their backing to the operation.

The details of Bush's conversation with Putin were not made public.

Bush addressed the nation from the White House residence's Treaty Room, which he noted was where several presidents before him had worked for peace. President McKinley negotiated and signed the 1898 peace agreement with Spain in that same room.

"We're a peaceful nation," Bush said. "Yet, as we have learned, so suddenly and so tragically, there can be no peace in a world of sudden terror."

By Sunday morning, senators close to the investigation of the terror attacks advised Americans to be especially vigilant about more danger at home, once military action began.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States was acting with "a clear right of self defense" under the United Nations charter and in concert militarily with five other nations.

American troops have been streaming into the region for weeks. After Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld visited neighboring Uzbekistan on Friday, U.S. military forces started arriving at a former Soviet air base in Khanabad, about 90 miles north of the Uzbek-Afghan border.

During his overseas trip last week, Rumsfeld also said that U.S. military forces would airdrop food and other humanitarian help to starving Afghans - but only after officials were sure that the Taliban's aircraft defenses posed no threat to the humanitarian flights.

Bush said Sunday that he had sent military men and women into action "only after the greatest care and a lot of prayer."

"To all the men and women in our military - every sailor, every soldier, every airman, every Coast Guardsman, every Marine - I say this: 'Your mission is defined, your objectives are clear, your goal is just. You have my full confidence. And you will have every tool you need to carry out your duty."'