In an interview with the television station GMTV, the British Prime Minister spoke about the military situation in Afghanistan and the objectives of the US/UK alliance regarding the military campaign and Osama Bin Laden personally, in the countdown to Ramadan and Winter.
He stated that the military objectives will be completed or almost completed before Christmas but that major successes had already been achieved, namely the destruction of all Al Qaeda training camps by October 23rd. He said that the British Special Forces were ready to enter Afghanistan in the next few days and that the Americans were already in the country.
Regarding Osama Bin Laden, Tony Blair declared that “Bin Laden will be arrested, sooner or later” but then claimed that it will be easier to kill him than to capture him alive. The British Secret services know that Osama Bin Laden is mobile in the central area of Afghanistan.
As far as the campaign is concerned, the Prime Minister was firm: “We must continue until the regime is overthrown or until they hand over Bin Laden”. He said that this determination was due to the fact that Al Qaeda, if they had had the chance, would have killed 60,000 people instead of 6,000 on September 11th.
He said that there was no turning back because Bin Laden would also not stop his quest to reach his objectives. These, according to Tony Blair, are that all Arab states should have fundamentalist regimes, that Israel should disappear and that the USA should have no contact with the Arab world, three conditions which he described as not negotiable.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon has called the Taleban “tougher than expected” fighters and have confirmed that the air strikes will continue after Ramadan starts on 15th November. Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem stated that it would be better to terminate the air campaign before then but that this was “not realistic” because the campaign was “long and slow”.
In a press conference with his British counterpart Jack Straw, US Secretary of State Colin Powell admitted “We are sensitive to the fact that Ramadan begins in mid November”. However he went on to say that if it is deemed necessary to continue the military campaign beyond the date on which Ramadan begins, “I am certain that the President will support that decision”.
The Taleban are reported by the Pentagon to be poisoning American food aid so as to blame it on the USA later. The Taleban forces are said to be moving into residential areas and Mosques to avoid the intensive bombing campaign which starts to produce “collateral damage”, as usual.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru LISBON PORTUGAL