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Pentagon: New attacks aimed at similar targets



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Defense Department said a new round of airstrikes on Taliban and al Qaeda sites in Afghanistan on Monday focused on command and control facilities and air defenses.

Monday's assaults, which began as night fell over most of Afghanistan, followed the same pattern as ones launched Sunday -- the first of what the Pentagon said would be several days of U.S.-British strikes on Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the attacks sought to take out more of the Taliban's command and control assets, to cut off their communications and hamper their ability to mount coordinated military operations.

"We are hitting targets similar to those hit yesterday," Myers told reporters at the Pentagon.

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld speaks with CNN's Paula Zahn about the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan (October 8)

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Monday's operations included the firing of several cruise missiles from American ships and bombing runs by 10 B-1 and B-2 heavy bombers. The B-2s flew from the United States, Myers said.

Unlike Sunday's strikes, Monday's raids included only U.S. aircraft and cruise missiles launched from warships in the Arabian Sea, he said.

Defense officials in Washington and London said Monday their initial assessments of Sunday's heavy air raids on multiple targets -- 31 by Myers' count -- showed a broad level of success.

"We are still in the early stages of evaluating intelligence data that is available, and we will continue to do that throughout the day," Rumsfeld announced.

"We believe we have made progress in eliminating defense sites around the country... [but] we cannot state with certainty that we destroyed the dozens of command and control and leadership facilities we selected."

Bomb damage assessments would be forthcoming, Myers said.

Military runways, aircraft, surface-to-air missiles, airports and terror training camps were on Sunday's list of targets, Rumsfeld said earlier Monday. He added that Sunday's nighttime wave of bombing runs and cruise missile strikes were only the beginning of a longer campaign.

The joint strikes, launched by American and British air and naval forces Sunday, are aimed at disrupting the activities of the al Qaeda terror group, whose founder, Saudi dissident millionaire Osama bin Laden, has been implicated -- with several key lieutenants -- in the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Afghanistan's ruling Taliban regime has refused to meet U.S. demands that bin Laden be remanded to U.S. custody and that they dismantle several al Qaeda training camps throughout the country.

The Taliban, whose military has been built on a loose doctrine of guerrilla-based warfare, has little in the way of valued material that can be destroyed with missiles and bombs, Rumseld cautioned Monday. After 22 years of war in Afghanistan, he said, the Taliban have learned to make do with little.

Rumsfeld said that the Taliban likely would be able to continue communications between most units.

"They have very few targets that are valuable that can be hit from the air," he said. "We have to have a clear understanding of what is possible in a country like that. Much of the country is rubble.

"What we are doing is that which is doable, and it is only a part of an overall campaign," he said.

Without elaborating, Rumsfeld added that some ground units had been hit during the operation.

Rumsfeld: Humanitarian aid 'successful'

Officials said the air operations that began Sunday were intended to set the stage for future anti-terror operations and to make the airspace over Afghanistan safe for ongoing airdrops of foodstuffs to Afghan refugees.

"We believe the humanitarian aid flights were successful, and they will continue today," Rumsfeld said.

Two American C-17 cargo craft left Germany following the Sunday airstrikes and expelled some 37,500 daily ration packages over areas occupied by thousands of Afghan refugees. Rumsfeld and Myers said Monday they believed a similar number of prepackaged meals would be delivered before the day's operations were ended.

"It's not an effort against the Afghan people," Rumsfeld said earlier of the military operation. "Indeed, we are providing humanitarian assistance."

The United States has pledged significant aid to the Afghan people, many of whom have suffered years of war following the 1979 invasion by Soviet forces, and the 12 years of civil war that followed their retreat in 1989.

"Anyone who looks at the overhead photography of these poor human beings, amassing into thousands of people trekking across drought-stricken areas, has to be just heartbroken. It is important that we and other countries assist those people," Rumsfeld said.

In London, the British Ministry of Defense offered its own assessment of Sunday's operations, insisting civilians were not targeted.

"The targets included terrorist training camps, military airfields and air defense sites," said British Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon.

During the Monday afternoon press briefing, Hoon said it was still too early to assess the damage from the attacks but emphasized that "the Afghan civilian population nor their homes or property have been targeted."

The Taliban envoy to Pakistan told reporters in a news conference Monday morning that several civilians, including women and children, were killed Sunday.

"I know there have been media reports that bombs and missiles have fallen near civilian areas. Detonations of nearby fire can give the impression that civilian areas are under attack," Hoon said. "I can assure you this was not the case."

Rumsfeld too discounted the Taliban claim, saying Monday afternoon that central areas of Kabul, where the civilian deaths were said to have occurred, were not struck Sunday. Flashes seen on television, he said, were all the product of anti-aircraft volleys.

Rumsfeld repeated Monday that the U.S.-led assault aimed to make it increasingly difficult for terrorists to use Afghanistan freely as a base of operations.

"The goal is simply to try to free the world of the threat of global terrorism," he said of the coalition's long-term aims. "We will not stop until the terrorist networks are destroyed. Countries that harbor terrorists and their training camps should know that they will suffer penalties."

Sunday's mission included bombing runs by U.S. B-2 Stealth bombers flown from the continental United States as well as B-1 and B-52 long-range bombers from the British air base on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

The bomber force was bolstered by 25 strike aircraft launched from carriers USS Carl Vinson and USS Enterprise and about 50 Tomahawk Cruise missiles launched from four U.S. surface ships, a U.S. submarine and three British submarines, the defense ministry confirmed Monday.

-- CNN's Ian Christopher McCaleb contributed to this report.



 
 
 
 



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