U.S. B-52s slam Taliban frontline troops
Bush: 'Tightening the net around the enemy'
KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- U.S. B-52 bombers pounded the Taliban front lines north of Kabul on Friday, striking the troops arrayed against the opposition Northern Alliance with fierce carpet bombing. Northern Alliance commanders told CNN the bombing is opening the way for an advance toward the capital within days.
In Washington, President Bush said the United States is "tightening the net around the enemy" and suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
"We are going to get him," Bush said.
The Pentagon received deployment orders for sophisticated ground surveillance equipment to help hunt down bin Laden and members of his al Qaeda terror network. The deployment order called for JSTARS -- Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System -- aircraft that can track vehicular and ground troop movement, and for Global Hawks, a long-range unmanned surveillance aircraft used for ground surveillance, to join Operation Enduring Freedom.
"That will be helpful when you're looking for trucks or SUVs or others that are moving around," said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem, a Pentagon spokesman.
Agreeing with the president's assessment, Stufflebeem said U.S. forces are "tightening the noose" around bin Laden. He added that bin Laden is an "elusive character" and "it's going to be a difficult problem" to find him without better, timely information on the ground.
But Stufflebeem made it clear that the military plans to get the man most wanted by the West.
"We have the means. It's a matter of time," he said.
Weather hampers U.S. efforts to insert troops
Bad weather, chiefly freezing rain, was hampering efforts to insert more U.S. Special Operations troops into Afghanistan, Stufflebeem said. The United States already has put an undisclosed number of Special Forces in the country to help with targeting and other liaison initiatives.
"The ones who are presently trying to get in have not yet successfully gotten in," Stufflebeem said.
Outside Kabul, U.S. B-52 Stratofortress bombers swept across Taliban front lines, sending plumes of smoke billowing up from the arid plain. The bombings were welcomed by opposition Northern Alliance fighters who have complained the U.S.-led strikes were not doing enough to aid them.
Northern Alliance commanders told CNN they had given U.S. forces the positions of a network of caves and tunnels on the Shomali Plain where the Taliban forces have been hiding out.
Northern Alliance commanders said thousands of their troops are being brought to the front for an advance. They said the B-52 attacks would -- within days -- open the way for an advance toward the capital.
Some of the airstrikes targeted Taliban positions along what is known as the "new road" to Kabul that runs through a strategic valley north of the Afghan capital.
According to a Northern Alliance foreign ministry spokesman, the airstrikes hit the Taliban villages of Kalay Nasro and Estar Ghech, and the mountain strongholds of Kalay Musa and Totakhan.
All are areas around Bagram and the strategically important air base there.
At a Pentagon news conference, Stufflebeem said the latest bombing runs were taking a huge toll on the Taliban and the al Qaeda terror network.
"We know we are putting severe stress on them," he said. "We know we're having success, but it's also very difficult to get good reports."
U.S. defense officials also have received indications that opposition forces may be rising up against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban have had a stronghold in recent years.
Stufflebeem said he had seen reports that some tribes "may be actively fighting the Taliban." U.S. officials were working to establish ties with those opposition tribes to provide them with support, he said.
In the southern Afghan stronghold of Kandahar, CNN's Nic Robertson said it was relatively quiet, with some overflights by U.S. jets but no bombing.
Robertson, who recently finished touring the city and outlying areas with Taliban guides, said he was able to break away on his own to see other sites. At city markets, he said, people told him they were more comfortable being out in public because the fighting had subsided over the last two days.
He visited a hospital where he talked to two civilians who said they were injured Thursday when bombs fell on the hydroelectric plant where they were working. The plant, Robertson said, supplies electricity to Kandahar.
'Not an instant gratification war'
Speaking at the White House on Friday, Bush said the United States will not pause its campaign during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in mid-November.
"The enemy won't rest during Ramadan, and neither will we," he said. "We're going to pursue this war until we achieve our objectives."
Bush said the American people understand that the war on terrorism will be a long struggle, a point that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also made Thursday.
"This is not an instant gratification war," Bush said.
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