PETER SNOW: And I'm joined, as before,
by Air Marshal Sir Tim Garden to analyse the situation. It's not
been a good week for the alliance against terrorism. There's no sign at
all, visible anyway, that the Taliban have been damaged by it so far, indeed
they've scored one or two notable successes and Britain's Defence Chief
who warned two weeks ago that the war could last till next summer is now
talking of it lasting three or four years. Well Britain has made a very
cautious start to the commitment of ground troops.
Of the twenty-thousand
troops now ending an exercise in Oman, only two hundred, as John said,
Royal Marines will stay on in the area backed by four thousand in the Navy
and Air Force. They'll be based afloat centred on an aircraft carrier
and three war ships and three submarines here in the Arabian Sea. The
other four hundred Marines of 40 Commando will be at home on standby.
Now the Marines' task
- as well as the SAS who are sure to be there as well - will be, we're
told, to stage "precise surgical strikes" in Afghanistan, although we're
also told operations may extend to several weeks at a time. But even
that will be a significant step up in the level of British involvement.
So far that's amounted to just two cruise missiles fired into Afghanistan
from those submarines, in-flight refuelling of American Naval strike aircraft
and reconnaissance flights over Afghanistan by RAF Canberras.
Now Air Marshal, when do you
think we can expect to see British troops on the ground in Afghanistan?
AIR MARSHAL SIR TIM GARDEN: I don't think we can predict. I mean
the reasons why the numbers are only two hundred is so that they can be
there for an indefinite period and we can have troops going out to relieve
them. What is needed is intelligence and the intelligence is the most important
thing so that they can do a quick in and out search and destroy mission
in order to take advantage of intelligence and that's what they are good
at. They are also well trained in mountain operations in the winter.
SNOW: Two hundred troops is an
extraordinarily small amount if you're thinking of going into this huge
country - with what forty thousand Taliban or something.
GARDEN: Well they are not doing
it alone, the Americans also have special forces and their Marine...
SNOW: But what kind of contribution
is two hundred troops?
GARDEN: It's a very significant
one because of their expertise and their ability to go and do these search
and destroy missions and the fact that they can be sustained now indefinitely.
SNOW: What are we to make of Admiral
Boyce and his only a few months of the war..only two weeks ago he said
and now he's talking about three or four years, isn't there some kind of
jitters inside the Ministry of Defence?
GARDEN: I think it's a reflection
of the uncertainties of war and how long a campaign will go on. As we
saw in Kosovo we had no idea when it would finally end. It might happen
quite quickly, it may take through the winter and it may be a long haul.
So he's merely reflecting the fact that we have got to prepare ourselves
and we've got to have contingency plans that allow us for the long haul
but we hope we don't need the long haul.
SNOW: How soon do you think we
are going to find..I mean how important do you think it is that we find
soon, real land action inside Afghanistan. Because the impression at the
moment after three weeks is one that the British and the Americans, indeed
the whole coalition is rather on the back foot isn't it?
GARDEN: I think we need patience.
There is no point putting troops in if you haven't got the intelligence
for what they have to do. So having got a situation now where you can listen
to everything that is going on in Afghanistan, you can take the photographs,
you can see what's going on, then you take the intelligence opportunity
when it arises and that maybe tomorrow, it maybe next week, it may be next
SNOW: Okay, what's happened this
week on the ground in Afghanistan? Well the bombing has if anything intensified
over Afghanistan, the American strikes on Afghanistan. Friday night's raid
on Kabul was one of the fiercest so far. The Americans have published
more pictures of what they say are successful raids. Let's just look at
the picture of a barracks in Kabul which is clearly intact before the raid
and after it, as you can see here, after it clearly flattened. How much
does the loss though of buildings like that actually effect fighters like
Well now the continuing
air strikes don't show any sign of any collapse by the Taliban, as the
Americans admitted this week. "They're tough warriors" said the Pentagon.
What's more civilian casualties are mounting. This morning there are
reports of civilians being hit in Kabul by US air strikes, Yesterday the
Pentagon had to admit that another relief depot, Red Cross depot in Kabul
was hit, twice in the same night, the second time by B52s and also a hospital
Well also last night,
a stray bomb hit a Northern Alliance village near Mazar e Sharif killing
nine people there. Now one type of American bombing has provoked growing
criticism - in the Commons and elsewhere - the use of cluster bombs which
throw out up to two hundred bomblets over a wide area. And there've been
complaints that because they don't always explode - those little bomblets
- immediately there's a greater risk to civilians. One American Democrat,
Senator Jo Biden, warned that America was running the risk of looking like
a "high tech bully". But the British Government says it believes "cluster
bombs are sometimes necessary".
As for the war on the
ground - it is still essentially a fight between the Taliban. Here they
are, we've coloured them green in the west and south of the country. And
in the north and north-east of the country, inside this dotted line here
roughly, the Northern Alliance, we've coloured them yellow here, fighting
away with the support of the Russians and others. Now in these areas,
the Americans have now been giving some direct air support to the Northern
Alliance in their attacks on Kabul and on Mazar e Sharif and the Russians
appear to be rearming the Northern Alliance and improving an airfield up
here some fifty miles north of Kabul. But in spite of all this, the Taliban
have not fallen back around Kabul and actually won back a town this week
near Mazar. Moreover the Taliban succeeded in catching Abdul Haq, a respected
Mujahadeen leader who had come across the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan
to explore prospects for encouraging resistance to the Taliban and they,
the Taliban, for their part promptly executed him.
Some reports indicate
the Taliban's military arm could even extend into Pakistan. Two American
helicopters refuelling at a Pakistani airstrip this last week were shot
at. They were retrieving the helicopter that crashed earlier killing its
two American crewmen and here they were under fire at a presumably protected
airfield inside Pakistan. And there are now reports of volunteers from
Pakistan trying to cross the border into Afghanistan to reinforce the Taliban.
Now Air Marshal, this
is a pretty disturbing picture for the alliance against terrorism isn't
GARDEN: Well, we've had three
weeks of operations so far, already one of the main aims has been achieved,
that is the destruction of the training camps of the terrorist organisation.
There are two left to do which are the more difficult ones, so you get
the easy one done first. And what we've got is now patient waiting for
the right intelligence to get Bin Laden and his leadership, while at the
same time weakening the Taliban's hold by surrounding the towns that they
have, stopping their logistics and attacking their main supply routes all
SNOW: You mention these guerrilla
camps, these terrorist camps, we also looked at the destruction of these
barracks. Does it really matter destroying these buildings, do these Mujahadeen
fighters, these Taliban fighters, these guerrilla fighters, terrorist fighters
of Bin Laden, do they actually need buildings and camps now?
GARDEN: Well ten thousand have
been trained through those camps in the past and they are no longer in
Afghanistan, they are around the world and they are a threat. So what we
want to do is make sure that there isn't an infrastructure for them to
train another ten thousand. It's one tiny part of the overall campaign,
but it is important.
SNOW: What about the use of cluster
bombs, do you think they are militarily useful?
GARDEN: Well it's a difficult decision
because there are various targets set, dispersed vehicles for example,
for which the cluster bomb is the ideal military weapon to do this. It
has, as you explained, some unfortunate effects, that not all its little
munitions go off. Not only is that a hazard to the locals, it's also a
hazard when we have to go in afterwards and clear them up, we lost some..or
some people suffered some casualties when they were in Kosovo trying to
do the clear up operation.
SNOW: So you would be against them?
GARDEN: Well my personal view is
that I think the political disadvantages outweigh the military advantages.
SNOW: Okay, Air Marshal, thank
you very much.