President notifies Congress about troop deployment
U.S. claims air supremacy over Afghanistan
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush sent formal notification to Congress on Tuesday of his decision to deploy U.S. troops and forces for combat operations in Afghanistan.
"This military action is part of our campaign against terrorism and is designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations," the president said in a letter to House and Senate leaders.
The letter said it was not possible to know the scope or duration of either the combat operation or the overseas deployment.
"As I have stated previously, it is likely the American campaign against terrorism will be lengthy," Bush wrote. "I will direct such additional measures as necessary in exercise of our right of self defense and to protect U.S. citizens and interests."
Bush said he was acting under his constitutional authority to conduct U.S. international policy "as commander in chief and chief executive."
Speaking to reporters shortly after the letter was transmitted to both chambers, Bush refused to characterize what role -- if any -- ground troops might play in the Afghanistan campaign.
"Whether or not we are going to put troops on the ground, I'm not going to tell you," Bush said during a White House appearance with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. "We are not going to share intelligence, nor am I going to tell you what we've got planned for the future."
U.S. strikes around the clock
Top Defense Department officials, meanwhile, said Tuesday that three days of air raids on Taliban and al Qaeda assets throughout Afghanistan have given the United States control of the skies over the mountainous central Asian nation.
Targets selected by the United States since the air operation began Sunday have included air defense facilities, ground-to-air missile sites, and command and control facilities of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban and the al Qaeda terror network.
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers estimated Tuesday, in an afternoon briefing to reporters, that the first hours of the air operation resulted in an "85 percent" success rate, and had effectively cleared away most fixed, ground-based threats to U.S. aircraft.
"Essentially, we have air supremacy over Afghanistan right now," Myers said.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, citing early U.S. successes, said, "We believe we are now able to carry out strikes around the clock, as we wish."
The United States tested its ability to stage daytime air raids Tuesday, for the first time since the operation commenced, hitting several targets around Afghanistan a short while after dawn. Among those targets, Pentagon officials confirmed earlier in the day, was a residential compound used by the ruling Taliban's leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar.
The compound, located in the Taliban's "spiritual" capital of Kandahar, housed command and control facilities and was a legitimate military target, a Pentagon official told CNN.
The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan said Omar was still alive following the strike, and Rumsfeld said Tuesday afternoon that he knew of several such compounds used by Omar.
Fresh attacks struck the city of Herat, in western Afghanistan, at nightfall, and Pentagon officials said the U.S.-led strikes would now be "continuous."
Anti-aircraft fire erupted over Kandahar on Tuesday morning, and warplanes screamed overhead as nearby explosions jolted the area. The Taliban said their headquarters was hit in the daylight attacks.
A source at the British Ministry of Defense said Tuesday's raids continued to degrade the Taliban's assets. The source added that the al Qaeda group's terrorist training camps "have been seriously damaged."
Myers offered some proof of that assessment, displaying three photographs of damaged or destroyed targets -- including an al Qaeda terrorist training camp near Kandahar, a SAM anti-aircraft missile site near the Kandahar airport, and an airfield in Shindand, Western Afghanistan.
The camp and SAM site appeared to have been destroyed, while the airfield showed huge craters in its runways.
The terrorist camp, however, was thought to have been evacuated before it was hit. Both Myers and Rumsfeld said it was nonetheless a significant target.
"That is where they have their classrooms, that is where they discuss their methods," Myers said. "That is where they have firing ranges... It would be like destroying (the Marine Corps base) at Quantico, Virginia."
"The airfields aren't permanently destroyed," Rumsfeld added. "And, anything can be repaired. But its adds cost, it adds time, it adds pressure... It is clear the Taliban and al Qaeda are feeling some pressure."
Assessing deaths of U.N. workers
Rumsfeld offered the first Pentagon comment about the reported deaths of four Afghan workers affiliated with a non-governmental group that clears land mines from the Afghan countryside. The four were reported to have died when the building in which they slept was struck overnight.
The building in which they worked, East of the Afghan capital, Kabul, sat next to a transmission tower used by the Taliban that may have been the planned target of a U.S. missile.
Rumsfeld said the Pentagon was investigating the reports, and that there was no way to determine whether the ordnance that struck the building came from the air, or from ground-based installations that were firing on overhead aircraft.
"We have no information to confirm this," he said. "Nonetheless, we still regret the loss of life."
The United Nations chastised the United States for the incident.
"People need to distinguish between combatants and those innocent civilians who do not bear arms. They also need to be mindful for protecting assets essential for the survival of Afghan civilians," the U.N.'s Stephanie Bunker said at a news briefing in Islamabad.
The strikes, which began Sunday and continued Tuesday, are aimed at disrupting the activities of the al Qaeda terror group. Its founder, Saudi dissident millionaire Osama bin Laden, has been implicated -- with several key lieutenants -- in the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
Bin Laden also remained alive Tuesday, said Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan.
Myers said Monday's list of targets included some 13 facilities, such as airfield, air defense installations and al Qaeda structure and forces. Five to eight land-based bombers participated, he said, as did 15-18 U.S. strike aircraft launched from aircraft carriers.
Even with the success of the assaults, Myers said, some targets would have to be hit again.
"We did well in our first strikes," Myers said. "But not perfect."
"We're finding that some of the targets we hit need to be rehit," Rumsfeld said.
The defense chief added, however, that his early assessments that the Taliban and al Qaeda had very little in the way of valuable material and infrastructure were being borne out. While some targets needed to be revisited, few new targets have been selected for upcoming raids.
"We're not running out of targets, Afghanistan is," he said.
Airdrops of food and medicine for Afghan refugees were continuing, Rumsfeld said.
-- CNN's Ian Christopher McCaleb and John King contributed to this report.
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