Wednesday October 10: Analysis
China Russia back Afghan coalition government
BEIJING, Oct 10 (Reuters) - China and Russia support the formation of a coalition government in Afghanistan and share a common stance on a campaign against terrorism, Chinese state media said on Wednesday.
In a series of telephone calls on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan outlined China's positions on Afghanistan, terrorism and Islam with counterparts from Russia, Qatar, India and Thailand, they said.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told Tang the international community should support the establishment of "a coalition government with a wide-ranging basis" in Afghanistan, according to the People's Daily.
The Communist Party newspaper quoted Tang saying an Afghan coalition government which was "able to cooperate with neighbouring countries in a friendly manner" would benefit the Afghan people and regional peace and stability.
"China and Russia have the same stance and interests on the issue of anti-terrorism," the newspaper quoted Tang as saying.
China and Russia have both backed a U.S.-led war against terrorism following the September 11 attacks on the United States due in large part to their own concerns about Islamic extremist groups.
Analysts say Moscow and Beijing want Western support for their campaigns against groups they view as terrorists instead of criticism over human rights abuses.
Tang drew parallels between Moscow's conflict in Chechnya and Beijing's campaign against Islamic separatists in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, the People's Daily said.
China said on Tuesday it had shut its narrow, little-used border with Afghanistan and closed the surrounding area in Xinjiang to foreigners.
The People's Daily quoted Ivanov as saying the United Nations should play a greater role in the campaign against terrorism and military strikes should have clear targets and not spread to other countries.
Tang also spoke by telephone with Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad of Qatar, which currently heads the 56-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference, state media said.
Islamic nations meeting in Qatar on Wednesday are expected to express concern that U.S.-British raids on Afghanistan could extend to other Muslim countries.
Tang noted that Islamic countries were also victims of terrorism and said China was "clearly opposed to associating terrorism with any religion, nationality or region."
Hamad said the Islamic world was opposed to any terrorist activities but it was necessary to distinguish between terrorism and Islam.
Tang also talked by telephone on Tuesday with Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, state media said without giving details.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some U.S. bombers conducting raids over Afghanistan were unexpectedly ordered to change targets in the middle of their mission, Air Force crew members said Tuesday.
"It did catch us a little off-guard when we were tasked to retarget all of our weapons on targets that we were not planning on striking when we left," a B-1 weapons officer identified as Morning said.
"The entire process is a really dynamic environment, things are changing very quickly out there, so all of the aircraft flying are capable of retargeting their weapons at a moment's notice," he said.
Morning and other crew members from B-1 and B-52 bombers and KC-10 tanker refuelers who participated in raids on Afghanistan spoke to reporters from an undisclosed location in a conference call arranged by the Air Force. They were identified only by call signs or nicknames.
Morning said that he flew a mission on the second night of strikes but that bombers who flew on the first night also had their targets changed while in the air.
"The air crew worked together as a team, and we made sure that all of the weapons went where they were supposed to and they were a successful strike," he said.
It was unclear why targets were switched because the fliers would not elaborate and defense officials have refused to discuss so-called operational details.
FIRST STRIKE CAME SUNDAY
The United States launched airstrikes on Afghanistan on Sunday in its war on terrorism and has pounded targets in that country every day since.
The strikes were in retaliation for the Sept. 11 hijacked-airplane attacks on New York and Washington that killed more than 5,500 people.
The United States has blamed Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden and his organization al Qaeda for backing the attack. It has set out to punish the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan for giving bin Laden refuge and refusing to turn him over.
Slim, a B-52 navigator who had previously flown sorties over Kosovo, said in comparison, the mission over Afghanistan was quieter, with fewer aircraft, and there had been a "little more technology from the former Republic of Yugoslavia side.
The ages of the crew members ranged from the late 20s to the late 30s, and some of them had never flown together before the current mission.
"Most of it was pretty dark for us as far as the flying goes, although we were able to see some of Afghanistan during the daylight hours, the dawn hours," said Ace, a B-1 pilot. "It looked a lot like Utah when you fly out the Utah test range," he said.
DEATHS OF U.N. WORKERS
They were asked whether they were aware that four U.N. workers were apparently killed by one of the bombing raids and whether that affected them.
"Of course we're aware of world events," said Exxon, pilot of a KC-10 tanker, which refuels other planes in midair.
"But does it affect our professional lives? Not a bit. When we're flying, we have a task at hand," he said.
"The air crews are normally very quiet when they're flying," Exxon said. "When we're up there, we're focusing on the task at hand. And when the job is done and we're back on the ground, then we'll put our citizen hats back on and go about our normal lives."
The crew members declined to comment on whether they met any anti-aircraft fire, but they hinted that any opposition they found was relatively weak.
"What we encountered was pretty benign. We were able to get to our targets and return home safely," said Zeus, a B-52 pilot.
Zeus, who was an American Airlines pilot in civilian life, said of the mission, "It became very personal to me."
B2, who operates the boom that connects the tanker to the plane being refueled, offered a similar sentiment. "I think everybody, after the terrorist attacks, everyone was pretty psyched about doing our job."
Separately, U.S. Central Command officials have requested that Afghanistan be declared a combat zone so military personnel involved in the mission there can receive increased hazard pay, a Pentagon spokesman said.