U.S. drops leaflets along with bombs
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. planes are dropping leaflets as well as bombs and humanitarian rations over Afghanistan in hopes of winning support inside the country for its anti-terrorist campaign, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Monday.
"We're working to make clear to the Afghan people that we support them, and we're working to free them from the Taliban and their foreign terrorist allies," Rumsfeld said.
In addition, he said, the United States has begun broadcasting its message to people on the ground, he said, but said U.S. planes were not yet dropping radios to help them hear the message.
"The partnership of nations is here to assist the people of Afghanistan," the leaflets said. They are accompanied by a photo of a Western soldier shaking hands with an Afghan civilian. Another leaflet lists the frequencies on which U.S. broadcasts can be heard and broadcast times.
Meanwhile, warplanes pounded the capital city of Kabul, the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar and the eastern city of Jalalabad on Monday in what witnesses said appeared to be one of the heaviest daytime raids since the U.S.-led bombing campaign in Afghanistan began October 7. The strikes continued into the night in some areas, including north of Kabul.
Despite the round-the-clock raids, Sohail Shaheen, the Taliban's deputy ambassador to Pakistan, said Monday that suspected terrorist leader Osama bin Laden -- the object of the U.S.-led campaign -- and Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taliban's supreme leader, are "alive and well."
About 12:30 a.m. Tuesday local time (4 p.m. Monday EDT), reports from Kandahar suggested that new attacks on that Taliban stronghold were being carried out by helicopter. The Pentagon refused to confirm or deny those accounts, but Pentagon sources said plans for Monday's strikes did not include U.S. helicopters.
Pentagon officials would not rule out the possibility that special operations forces could conduct clandestine helicopter raids that would not be in the daily bombing orders. U.S. officials have said repeatedly there would be "invisible" missions that would not be announced or even acknowledged after the fact.
Since the attacks began, Rumsfeld said, U.S. planes also have dropped more than 275,000 packets of food rations for the Afghans displaced by the U.S. attacks and two decades of war and several years of drought.
Kabul's telephone exchange and Taliban forces north of the Afghan capital were among the targets of the latest U.S. attacks. Sources in Afghanistan said the U.S. bombardments, which continued into Monday night in some parts of the country, also struck Kandahar and Jalalabad near the Pakistan border.
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S.-led campaign targeted 17 sites Saturday and seven Sunday, using about 25 strike planes and bombers -- plus cruise missiles from U.S. and British ships in the Arabian Sea -- each day.
The United States was sending a fourth aircraft carrier -- the USS Theodore Roosevelt -- toward the region. The Roosevelt and its escorts, which had been in the Mediterranean Sea, moved through the Suez Canal on Saturday.
On Sunday, the Taliban allowed international journalists to view sites in and around Jalalabad, including an airfield and radar installation that were heavily damaged.
They also took journalists to Koram, a village where the Taliban claims 200 people died in an airstrike last week. That figure would have been about half the village's population, but there was no way to verify it independently.
The Pentagon admitted that a 2,000-pound, satellite-guided bomb from a Navy jet missed its target at Kabul's airport Friday night and struck a civilian neighborhood about a mile away. Myers said four people are believed to have died in that incident.
But Rumsfeld denied Taliban reports of large-scale civilian casualties.
"We do not have information that validates any of that. Indeed some of the numbers are ridiculous," Rumsfeld said.
Myers said that despite the Taliban claims of civilian deaths in Koram "there were no bomb craters in that village."
Rumsfeld said airstrikes have been targeting ammunition storage areas, in some cases resulting in "a number of quite powerful secondary explosions." In at least one of those, he said, people near the dumps -- "who very likely were there for a good reason because they were part of that activity" -- may have been hit.
With the opposition Northern Alliance claiming advances against Taliban forces in northern and central Afghanistan, Rumsfeld hinted that U.S. planners may turn more toward supporting Northern Alliance troops.
"We're hopeful as relationships with people on the ground develop and evolve that the targeting information will be still better, and indeed that seems to be proving to be the case," he said.
Northern Alliance leaders have complained that U.S. forces could do more to help them battle the Taliban, which control about 90 percent of the country.
"Our conscious pattern is to try to be helpful to the forces on the ground that are anti-al Qaeda and anti-Taliban, and we are doing it aggressively everywhere we have decent targeting information," Rumsfeld said. "And at the moment, we have had less-than-perfect targeting information in the area."
But he added, "I suspect that in the period ahead that's not going to be a very safe place to be."
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