Afghanistan skies quiet on Friday
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The skies over Afghanistan were quiet Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, after overnight U.S. airstrikes witnesses called the fiercest of the five-day-old campaign.
"We are not doing any pre-planned operations today, as Friday is the Muslim holy day," said Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "But we do have forces available to hit any emerging targets."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would not say when the U.S.-led strikes might resume, nor would he say what the United States would do on other Muslim holidays.
U.S. warplanes struck six facilities overnight, using about 15 carrier-based strike planes and 10 land-based bombers, Myers said. Conditions on the ground prevented airdrops of humanitarian aid over Afghanistan, but the airdrops were expected to resume Friday, he said.
U.S. operations have been aimed at the ruling Taliban's defensive infrastructure, units on the ground and underground bunkers used by the Taliban and al Qaeda, the terrorist network U.S. officials blame for the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
Rumsfeld said the Taliban and al Qaeda communications and air defense capabilities have been disrupted, "and we have worked over a number if not all of their terrorist training camps."
"We know that we have found some concentration of Taliban and al Qaeda forces, and we know that they are moving -- that their life is more difficult, and the places where they have stayed, some of them have disappeared," Rumsfeld said.
President Bush said Thursday night he might halt the campaign if the Taliban were to surrender al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his associates.
"If you cough him up and his people today," Bush said, "We'll reconsider what we're doing to your country. You still have a second chance. Just bring him in, and bring his leaders and lieutenants and other thugs and criminals with him."
A correspondent for the Qatari television news channel Al Jazeera reported large numbers of Kabul's civilian population opted to flee after witnessing the ferocity of Thursday's attacks. Footage on Al Jazeera shot during the day showed a U.S. F-14 Tomcat fighter slicing unchallenged through the skies above Kabul.
U.S. pilots were dropping 5,000-pound, laser-guided "bunker buster" bombs, which burrow 20 feet into the ground toward their targets before detonating. Rumsfeld said Thursday that one of those bombs connected with something substantial underground, triggering explosions for several hours after the projectile hit its target.
U.S. planners who have found areas within Afghanistan where there are "external indications of underground activity," he said, have directed bombing crews to those areas. He hinted also that the sites of underground bunkers may have been divulged by "various sources" on the ground.
The opposition Northern Alliance said it believed Taliban troop positions north of Kabul, in Kapisa Province, were among the U.S. targets. The bombardments were taking place around a 10,000-foot (3,000-meter) mountain where Taliban forces are entrenched -- a main obstacle for the Northern Alliance in advancing to Kabul.
Rumsfeld said he "would be surprised" if front lines between the Northern Alliance and Taliban forces had shifted much.
The U.S. objective has been to inflict damage on Taliban and al Qaeda forces across Afghanistan, sometimes "in reasonable proximity to ground forces that oppose al Qaeda and or oppose the Taliban," Rumsfeld said. But he added, "It's for those troops to make judgments as to whether they are going to take advantage of the work that's been done for them."
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