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One month in: The military campaign

Rangers
Nightscope images show U.S. Army Rangers in southern Afghanistan in mid-October.  


(CNN) -- Just less than a month after the World Trade Center's twin towers fell in Manhattan, a flurry of U.S.-launched cruise missiles and bombs fell on Afghanistan -- kicking off the second and most visible chapter in what President Bush deemed the "war on terrorism."

The airplanes and missiles went skyward with a clear purpose -- to unsettle the ruling Taliban, dismantle the al Qaeda group accused of the attacks on New York and the Pentagon, and bring its leader, Osama bin Laden, to justice.

 
By the numbers
Figures related to the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan (estimates as of early Nov.)

Sorties flown: 2,300

Reservists recalled: 43,600

Rations dropped: 1.2 million

Primary targets: Kabul (26 strikes), Kandahar (23), Mazar-e Sharif (13)

U.S. casualties: 3

U.S. radio broadcasts in Afghanistan: 300+ hours

Source: U.S. Defense Dept.


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A month later, bin Laden is reputed to remain at large, as are key al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. Opposition forces have yet to capture a major Afghan city. The U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition is fighting perceptions it is losing the propaganda war.

Yet the United States remains optimistic. Just this week, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reported "measurable progress" in the campaign, and Northern Alliance forces hinted that they may soon be advancing.

Below is a week-by-week recap of the military campaign in Afghanistan.

1st week: Opening moves

The attacks began Sunday, October 7, with about 50 cruise missiles launched from U.S. ships and U.S. and British submarines. Twenty-five U.S. carrier-based aircraft and 15 land-based bombers also participated in the military campaign's first wave. Heavy bombers soon took on an important role, thanks to the widespread use of technologically advanced bombs that hit targets with precision.

Sites hit that first week were those that modern air campaigns traditionally target: command and control, radar, and air-defense facilities. Airports in Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad and Herat were hit.

On Friday, October 12, the weekly Muslim holy day, no airstrikes were reported. It has been the only bombing break of the campaign thus far.

2nd week: Digging in

Almost all the strikes reported in week 2 targeted sites in and around the capital, Kabul, and Taliban stronghold of Kandahar. The Taliban began to report civilian casualties in both cities, few of which could be independently confirmed.

An Air Force AC-130U gunship made its debut attacking Kandahar. The use of the powerful "Spooky" gunship proved to many that the coalition had achieved air superiority over Afghanistan.

On Friday, October 19, the Pentagon reported that U.S. Special Operations troops, including more than 100 Army Rangers -- reportedly augmented with help from members of the elite Delta Force -- conducted an overnight raid around Kandahar, targeting a complex used by Taliban ruler Mullah Mohammed Omar, and an airstrip outside the city. Two U.S. servicemen died in a helicopter crash in Pakistan while backing up the operation.

3rd week: The war widens

A new, intensified wave of attacks opened the military campaign's third week. On Sunday, October 21, U.S. airstrikes were launched across Afghanistan -- from Herat in the west, to Jalalabad in the east, to Kandahar in the south and to Konduz in the north.

By week's end, the bombings' focus had shifted to the Shomali Plains, a no-man's-land between the Taliban and Northern Alliance troops north of Kabul. Airstrikes also fell on Taliban forces near Mazar-e Sharif, a city in the north whose location, straddling supply routes to Kabul, makes it strategicallly important.

4th week: Preparing the battlefield

Again, a major bombardment followed a slight lull on Friday, November 2, the Muslim holy day. Kabul, Mazar-e Sharif and Kandahar were especially hard hit all week.

For the first time, B-52 bombers began carpet bombing Taliban lines near Bagram air base north of Kabul. Tactical aircraft also dropped controversial "cluster bombs" on Taliban forces, which responded with shoulder-launched infrared missiles. The week ended with word the United States was also using BLU-82s -- highly explosive 15,000-pound bombs.

Aided by U.S. airstrikes, Northern Alliance forces claimed gains near Mazar-e Sharif and hinted at an impending advance on Kabul.



 
 
 
 



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