The Taliban reaction to the US/UK alliance, which has counted on the important support of the Russian Federation, was defiant. “Fight to the last breath” was the order of the day.
Tonight Kabul has plunged into its second night of darkness and the city’s electricity supply has again been hit. Kabul and Kandahar are coming under a second wave of strikes by bombs and missiles as this article goes to press.
Yesterday, 50 cruise missiles were launched by the joint force as British Trafalgar-class submarines and 15 US bombers and 25 strike aircraft were deployed. Kabul radio was knocked out and the airport was hit yesterday and twice more this evening. The targets will be roads, railways, power supply and distribution networks, IT facilities, and military installations.
While US Defence Secretary Rumsfeld denied yesterday that there was any involvement of ground troops, the British TV station Sky News has tonight confirmed that ground forces have entered Afghanistan.
This will be the second wave of the attack plan. The first phase was to knock out communications and anti-aircraft systems, to allow the British and American aircraft to fly over the country with impunity. Phase two will see the British SAS, Royal marines and Gurkhas and the US Delta Force of the Green Berets, Army Rangers and Navy SEALS, making active contact with the Taliban.
The Taleban, for their part, declare their morale to be high. “The morale of the Taleban is very high because we are fighting a new Jihad. There are numerous Moslems around the world and we will all join together to fight the common enemy, America”, said Mawlana Najibullah, the Taleban Consul in Peshawar.
The Northern Alliance, bolstered by some Russian military hardware and an influx of US and British “advisors” (CIA operationals and SAS servicemen), state that they are ready to resume their attacks today “not for the USA but for our own motives”.
On the human level, Pravda.Ru contacts in Alma Aty in Kazakhstan report that the situation in the area is tense, as refugees spill over the borders of Afghanistan into Tadjikstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Tadjikstan may be the worst affected of the three Republics, since it has 3 million of its own population undernourished.
Reports by the Taliban that a US aircraft had been downed yesterday in Southern Afghanistan have been denied by the Pentagon.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru LISBON PORTUGAL
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969