Skip to main content /WORLD /WORLD


UK: Afghan campaign 'until summer'

Boyce said U.S. combat aircraft were being supported by British reconnaissance and refuelling planes
Boyce said U.S. combat aircraft were being supported by British reconnaissance and refuelling planes  

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The chief of Britain's defence staff says the military campaign in Afghanistan could last until next summer or beyond.

At a news briefing in London on Thursday with UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce said it was difficult to predict how long military operations would last.

The campaign could end soon, he said, if the Taliban give up accused terror mastermind Osama bin Laden and there was a government that did not support terrorism.

But in the meantime, he said, there were still targets to be struck in Afghanistan and that Britain was continuing to support the U.S. campaign.

Attack on America
 CNN NewsPass Video 
Agencies reportedly got hijack tips in 1998
Intelligence intercept led to Buffalo suspects
Report cites warnings before 9/11
Timeline: Who Knew What and When?
Interactive: Terror Investigation
Terror Warnings System
Most wanted terrorists
What looks suspicious?
In-Depth: America Remembers
In-Depth: Terror on Tape
In-Depth: How prepared is your city?
On the Scene: Barbara Starr: Al Qaeda hunt expands?
On the Scene: Peter Bergen: Getting al Qaeda to talk

Boyce said the air operation was "impressive" so far but added: "We are very much still at the beginning. We are there for the long haul."

And, asked what the timescale of the campaign was, he said: "We must expect to go through the winter and into next summer at the very least."

Hoon said he was aware of Taliban claims that more than 100 civilians had been killed in the latest strikes. He said those claims could not be independently confirmed but asserted all efforts were being made to avoid civilian deaths.

"There is always going to be a risk, that can not be avoided," he said.

"It is becoming clear that the U.S. and UK carefully targeted strikes are increasingly effective," Hoon said. "We have inflicted damage on bin Laden's organisation, terrorist training camps and the military infrastructure of the Taliban regime that shelters and protects him."

The defence minister said: "It is clear that the coalition is already having an impact on Taliban cohesion. Reports suggest that some of (Taliban supreme leader) Mullah Omar's followers are starting to have second thoughts. Some are clearly defecting."

However, he said the defections were not at a level that would suggest the Taliban are losing control of the government.

Boyce said the coalition had air superiority over Afghanistan, but U.S. and British planes still face threats from portable anti-aircraft missiles and anti-aircraft guns.

He said British reconnaissance and aerial refuelling planes were supporting the strikes by U.S. combat aircraft.

Boyce said Britain's forces had not launched any combat strikes since its submarines fired cruise missiles at Afghanistan last Sunday and added that there may be a lull in the bombing as the impact of the attacks is assessed.


• Hoon: Ground troops an 'option'
October 9, 2001

• Ministry of Defence

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.


Back to the top