PETER SNOW: And John I'm joined by Air
Marshal Tim Garden to review the situation at the end of a couple of weeks.
Well now two weeks after the beginning of Phase One, the air strikes,
we're now into Phase Two, troops on the ground. Hercules aircraft have
been dropping up to a hundred US Rangers by parachute, down here in the
South of Afghanistan and they were attacking an airstrip here, and a command
post, near by Kandahar. Only light resistance, but the Americans did suffer
their first two people killed down here in Pakistan, when a helicopter
crashed, the Taliban say that it didn't crash in Pakistan, that it actually
was disabled over Afghanistan, but the Americans say no, it was disabled
over Pakistan, it was on standby support to the operation inside Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the air war hasn't
stopped in spite of calls for a bombing pause. The air war has, if anything,
intensified, with American aircraft pushing their way there into Afghanistan.
The Allies claim in the words of Jack Straw the Foreign Secretary - that
they've "very very severely degraded the Taliban's strength." Airfields,
and other military targets like missile sites all over Afghanistan being
The Americans have just released a picture of a barracks in Kabul before
an air strike, there you can see the buildings quite clearly there, and
after it, just look at this, just look at the damage there caused. I mean
the buildings absolutely flattened there by the air strike. Other reports
- from aid workers in places like Kabul - suggest that the aircraft are
actually missing their military targets and civilians are being hit. The
Allies continue to insist that they're not targeting civilians.
Tony Blair says
the allies have also damaged Osama bin Laden and some of his training camps
around the South and West of the country, and Mr Blair's dismissed demands
for a let-up in the bombing saying that that would be a sign of weakness.
In the first fourteen days of action we've seen the number of strike aircraft
used rising dramatically - from, for example, twenty-two on day two to
one-hundred on a couple of days in this past week. In the last week the
strikes have shifted to targeting Taliban troops, down here we've coloured
them green on the whole in the South and West of the country and also trying
to pick off their remaining tanks, but the Northern Alliance Troops, we've
coloured them yellow up here and they are on the whole not receiving much
effective direct support from the Americans, and they say that if only
the Americans would do that, then their attacks would be much more effective.
Now, Air-Marshall, how far do you think the Alliance have actually got
in this campaign after two weeks?
AIR MARSHALL TIM GARDEN: I think they've got much further
than many of us expected them to be able to do, not only have they destroyed
all the air defences, they're now able to operate with total freedom over
the air space, you've seen the AC 130's, the big gun ships coming in and
attacking targets for quite a long period, and this has meant that they
can now put in ground forces for the first time, really quite shortly after
starting this operation.
SNOW: They're attacking all right,
but what effect are they having on the Taliban, any sign of demoralisation,
GARDEN: The attacking on their
logistic support, getting rid of all their fuel, their ammunition, means
that they cannot operate against the Northern Alliance and the other partisans
who are against them. I think also their morale must be decreasing very
considerably if you heard the news of Mullah Omar's family losses as a
result of the earlier attacks.
SNOW: But nevertheless, there's
no real sign yet is there of any actual movement on the ground that suggests
the Taliban are moving backwards or being beaten.
GARDEN: Well there's movement on
the ground because there are already American Forces going in on the ground.
This is big movement. Yes in terms...
SNOW: ...they went in and came
GARDEN: Well, they'll continue
to do that I think in greater numbers. In terms of the particular towns,
Mazar-e-Sharif in the North, and Kabul, they're going to be quite long
SNOW: Okay, let's look now what
we can expect to happen next. Well we can expect more helicopter bomb attacks,
maybe some parachute drops as well from North and from South into Afghanistan
over the next few days, perhaps including British Marines as well. Now
of course their ultimate aim is to find Osama bin Laden. The Allies are
hoping that the promise of cash, or populous enchantment with bin Laden
will lead someone to betray him. But until that happens they'll be targeting
the people who are sheltering him, the Taliban. There we are, there of
course all over the South and West of the country as well as some of those
bin Laden training camps. The other thing to watch over the next few days,
is what the ground raids do to attempt to enlarge the parts of the country
not controlled by the Taliban, but controlled by their rivals, the Northern
Alliance. Now they're on the whole up here in the North-East, and that
area there, of course we've coloured them yellow here on our map.
Now in their attack
on Kabul, they're still not making very much progress. But most of the
action is in the area of Mazar-e-Sharif, which Tim Garden mentioned a bit
earlier. It's only fifty miles from Afghanistan's Northern border, the
Taliban control the city itself, and also the area around here to the East,
where the airfield is, and the Northern Alliance have been attacking the
city from almost all directions, up here, round here and down here, and
indeed, even from the South as well. And the trouble is though that their
attacks and the American air strikes in support of them have so far failed
to dislodge the Taliban. The Taliban are said to have the support of some
of bin Laden's own forces, and they claim that one Northern Alliance attack
here on the airfield was actually pushed back successfully, indeed the
Northern Alliance themselves admit that they had to pull back from the
airfield. The Americans are now supplying more close air support to the
Northern Alliance on the battlefield. So, Air-Marshall, how much more can
we expect now the Allies to get involved in battles like this one on the
GARDEN: Well I think what we're
seeing now is a campaign which has sealed off the town, they're surrounded
totally by the Northern Alliance, their logistic supply has been eliminated,
their airfield is not available, and so the pressure is on them all the
time and it will eventually be a war of attrition, which I'm afraid the
Taliban have no hope of winning, and that will eliminate various people
who are in the centre there in Mazer-e-Sharif and it'll also allow the
capture of the airfield as perhaps a re-supply place and somewhere where
can start expanding the humanitarian aid out off.
SNOW: So Mazer-e-Sharif will be
a big prize for the Alliance, I mean the other ...
GARDEN: ... it's geographically
well placed for support from the North.
SNOW: And yet we've seen the Taliban
effectively pushing back their attack in the last couple of days.
GARDEN: This is war. You get progress
and you get being pushed. But they have no hope now of being able to survive
for a long time given that all the roads are sealed off and the airfield's
SNOW: Now one other thing we hear
is happening at the moment is that Special Forces, like Britain's SAS and
the American Green Beret's and so on, are in there in Afghanistan, in small
groups, trying to persuade people, that's the way it's put by defense sources,
to join the anti-Taliban forces. Is that militarily credible, how does
GARDEN: Well I think it would be
slightly hazardous to go and walk up to somebody in the street and say,
"would you care to join us?" I think what you'll see is that you've got
liaison officers working with the Northern Alliance, both for these sorts
of operations and indeed for getting food supply and logistic supply into
the Northern Alliance, and then getting the Northern Alliance to do that
sort of liaison work with people who may defect to them in the longer term.
SNOW: Air Marshall, thank you.