USA claims success, Taleban claim “real war” has not started, United States accused of using terrorism as an excuse to extend influence to this oil-rich region.
Declarations by US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the spiritual leader of the Taleban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, entrench their mutual positions as they launch into mutual threats.
Donald Rumsfeld has accused the Taleban regime and Al Qaeda of using Afghan civilians as human shields. He declares that it is these organisations, not the USA, which should be held responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians. “Responsibility for every casualty in this war, be they innocent Afghans or innocent Americans, rests at the feet of the Taleban and Al Qaeda”, he declared at a Pentagon press conference on October 29th.
The US Defence Secretary stated that the final objective of his country was “the comprehensive defeat of the Taleban and Al Qaeda and the terrorist networks operating throughout the world that threaten our people and our way of life”. He called the Taleban “an illegitimate, unelected group of terrorists”.
Richard Myers, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces, said that the air campaign was proceeding as planned and that contrary to pessimistic speculation, it was achieving its aims. “We are proceeding at our pace. We are not proceeding at the Taleban’s pace or Al Qaeda’s pace”, he declared.
On the issue of the air strikes continuing into Ramadan, Donald Rumsfeld pointed out that the obligation of the US Armed Forces was to protect its people and that the current conflict began after “5,000 innocent Americans” were murdered. He added that “the history of warfare is that it has proceeded right through Ramadan year after year after year after year”. The commitment was not stated, but confirmed.
Despite the air strikes, little military progress has been made against the Taleban in the northern front around Mazar-i-Sharif and against Kabul, the capital, in the eastern front.
The spiritual leader of the Taleban, Mullah Muhammad Omar, declared in a written interview with the Algerian Arabic language daily El Youm. That the United States will learn a “tougher lesson” than the Soviets. The Armed Forces of the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989 after a ten-year campaign failed to create the minimum conditions to remain in support of the democratic government of President Najibullah in safety.
In this interview, which took place two weeks into the US/UK bombing campaign (around October 20th), Omar declared “We have not yet begun the real war against the Americans, because of their technological power. But if God wills it, we will not welcome them with flowers. They will receive a tougher lesson than that of their Russian predecessors”.
On the subject of Osama Bin Laden, he stated, “We have said that if Washington has proof concerning the implication of bin laden in the attacks, why haven’t they shown it to us? In that case, we are ready to judge him in Afghanistan or by a commission of Moslem Ulemas (clerics) in three Arab countries”.
Mullah Omar claimed that the issue at stake is neither terrorism nor Osama Bin Laden, not Al Qaeda, but rather the desire by the USA to implant itself in the region .
Speculation has recently arisen as to where the pipeline for the oil from Kazakhstan will run. Some sources state that it will run through Afghanistan into Pakistan. The Bush family, historically connected to crude, should know the answer.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru LISBON PORTUGAL