Sep 30: British Newspaper Says US/UK to Strike Taliban 'within days'


US and Britain to strike terror camps within days (Observer, September 30, 2001)
Troops will target drugs stockpile (Observer, September 30, 2001)

US and Britain to strike terror camps within days
Attacks limited to targets found by special forces
War on Terrorism - Observer special,4273,4267263,00.html
Ed Vulliamy, Washington, Jason Burke, Peshawar, Peter Beaumont and Paul Beaver
Sunday September 30, 2001

Devastating attacks on bases controlled by Osama bin Laden are set to be launched in the next 48 hours as part of a tightly focused military operation approved by US President George Bush and backed by Britain.

The strategy, which is a victory for pragmatists in both Britain and America, is designed to kill bin Laden and his forces, and will be launched in tandem with strikes against air and ground forces of the Taliban regime supporting him.

The operation, which British and US sources say could be launched as early as today, would begin with air and missile strikes to destroy the Taliban's 20-aircraft air force, remove anti-aircraft missile batteries, and destroy Taliban tanks and other armour.

In a clear sign that strikes were imminent, Bush declared last night, after a meeting with military advisers at Camp David: 'America will act deliberately and decisively, and the cause of freedom will prevail.'

In a live radio address, he added: 'We did not seek this conflict, but we will end it. This war will be fought wherever terrorists hide, or run, or plan. Other victories will be clear to all.'

The aim of the first phase, likely to be launched from aircraft with US and British ships in the Arabian Sea, would be to remove any threat from the Taliban for the substantial incursion that would follow.

Sources say this would be in the form of a so-called desant operation - an airborne assault deep into Taliban-held territory - led by helicopter-carried troops of the US 82nd Airborne Division. Sources said that the 101st Air Assault Division has also been ordered to be ready for action.

Also fully mobilised was the 10th Mountain Division, which would be the main ground force in what Bush called an upcoming 'guerrilla war' fought by US and British forces. Although soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division are trained for low-level parachute jumps, any assault is likely be made by first abseiling down fixed lines from helicopters.

American forces would be supported by US Special Forces - including US Army Rangers and Green Berets, and by British Special Forces. British units understood to have been earmarked include mountain warfare cadres of G-troop, 22 SAS Regiment; the Special Boat Service's Mountain Troop - which is trained for cliff assault and Arctic warfare - and the Mountain Leaders' section of 4/5 Royal Marine Commando. All are trained and equipped to operate in mountainous terrain for periods of up to a fortnight without being resupplied.

The US troops are equipped with a specialised version of the Black Hawk attack helicopter and long range MH-47 Chinooks armed with rotary cannon. They would also be able to call on support from AC-130 aircraft - nicknamed Puff the Magic Dragon - which can give ground support with an artillery cannon in its belly.

Initial targets earmarked for the air assault and desant operation include bases controlled by the al-Qaeda around Kabul, in particular those with usable air strips.

Crucial evidence that links bin Laden to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington nearly three weeks ago has been obtained by The Observer . A secret intelligence dossier compiled by an Arab state with a longstanding interest in bin Laden last night revealed that at least one of the 19 hijackers was trained in a camp in Afghanistan run by al-Qaeda and that another is 'close to bin Laden'.

American security sources told The Observer they believe four of the hijackers had spent time in Afghanistan with the Taliban and possibly with al-Qaeda. One, Wali Mohamed al-Sherhi, is believed to have been taught urban warfare and terrorism in al-Farooq training camp in eastern Afghanistan, close to the Pakistan border.

He is thought to have left Afghanistan 18 months ago. The dossier, for the first time, definitely links al-Farooq to bin Laden, naming four men who are bin Laden aides who it says administer and train those at the camp.

Back in Washington, the tight focus of the planned military operation is a victory for the pragmatists in Bush's cabinet, notably Secretary of State Colin Powell. Powell has been involved in a battle of wills with hawks gathered around the figure of Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who would like to see US strikes against a wide range of targets, including Iraq.

It also follows words of caution from America's key ally, Britain. Tony Blair has advised that the only target of military action should be bin Laden's network and, if necessary, the Taliban.

The location of the bases was revealed yesterday by Russian intelligence, which has provided the Pentagon with the most detailed intelligence so far on the network of bin Laden camps.

The news came as British sources claimed that the Taliban was set to flood the west with heroin in an attempt to destabilise its enemies.

US Special Forces were last night already active in Afghanistan, almost certainly involved in scouting and preparing a secure forward airbase in territory held by the opposition Northern Alliance.

There were claims from Afghanistan yesterday that a team of five US commandos has been captured by al-Qaeda. The Qatar-based al-Jezeera television station said al-Qaeda claimed to have captured a unit 'armed with modern weapons and maps of al-Qaeda's bases' in the south-western Helmand province.

The Taliban and the Pentagon denied the report. US officials, however, confirmed on Friday that special forces units - possibly from the US Green Berets or the elite Rangers regiment - had been deployed in Afghanistan on reconnaissance missions.

They hinted that soldiers from the British SAS were also involved. The special forces had been deployed 'in the last few days', the sources told US reporters, and were there to gather information on Taliban positions and strengths, not to search for bin Laden.

Sources in Washington said that with British and American reconnaissance and Special Operations teams already working on the ground to locate targets with laser-guidance and sensor systems, US forces were ready to 'go into the first breach' in territory controlled by al-Qaeda.

Planning groups at the Pentagon will now increase pressure on the White House to expand the action to attack locations in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, with the elimination of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as 'a precondition' to defeating terrorism.

Troops will target drugs stockpile
Downing Street fears the Taliban will flood the West with £20 billion worth of heroin,1373,560700,00.html
War on Terrorism - Observer special

Kamal Ahmed, political editor
Sunday September 30, 2001
The Observer

American and British troops are to target a £20 billion stockpile of opium and heroin which intelligence officials believe is about to be released onto the world market by Osama bin Laden and the Taliban authorities.
Intelligence documents circulating in Downing Street say that bin Laden and the Taliban will use money made from the trade to fund any war against the West.

It is believed that there are up to 3,000 tonnes of opium in secret bunkers across the north and west of Afghanistan. Such a large amount could be used to manufacture up to 300 tonnes of heroin, enough to supply the British drugs trade for 10 years.

Downing Street officials believe that bin Laden and his al Qaeda organisation are closely connected to a string of drug gangs which use supply routes through Iran and Turkey into Europe and America. Nearly 90 per cent of the heroin sold in Britain is thought to come from Afghanistan.

Although refusing to go into specifics, Government sources said that the destruction of the drugs trade was a 'long-held ambition' and that they would be flexible in making it part of the 'war against terrorism'.

'We want to see an end to opium production in Afghanistan,' the Prime Minister's official spokesman said.

It is believed that troops will focus on areas where the drugs are thought to be stored around Jalalabad and the bin Laden camps of Darunta, Bhesud and Khost. They will move against chemical factories which process the drugs and farms which grow poppies as part of the military operation.

Security sources said that all of these could also be targeted in a series of air strikes when the military campaign, Operation Enduring Freedom, is launched against the country.

Last week it was reported that the Taliban had lifted their ban on the planting of poppy fields, so that the manufacture of opium and heroin could begin again. This is the first evidence that bin Laden and the Taliban authorities already have a major stockpile of drugs.

'Assessments suggest that those stocks are now being disposed of because of the threat of war and the need to raise money,' the Prime Minister's official spokesman said. 'Bin Laden has been closely involved in the Afghan drugs trade and has encouraged major traffickers in the past to flood Europe and the US with heroin as a means of undermining and destabilising. There are strong grounds for believing that [he has] large stockpiles of drugs himself.

'The Taliban in the past have used money from drugs to fund military action. Bin Laden is actively involved in the Afghan drugs trade and sees these drugs as a means of undermining the West.'

Although the Afghan border with Iran is officially closed there are a myriad of routes between the two countries which are almost impossible to close down.

Britain has now agreed to help Iran, a long-time political enemy, in the fight against drugs. During his visit to the country last week Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, announced that the Government would give a £650,000 grant to President Mohamed Khatami to help in counter-trafficking measures.

Downing Street played down fears that the release of such a huge amount of heroin by the Taliban would flood the Western market with cheap heroin.

'Street prices of heroin in Britain are unlikely to be affected,' the spokesman said. 'The price didn't alter during the ban. We don't expect there to be a flood of cheap heroin now.' He said that government policies were in place to stop the drugs entering Britain.

Under questioning, the official spokesman said that he could not divulge any evidence which the Government had about the drugs. 'We cannot reveal our sources but it is reliable evidence gained over many years.'

Diplomatic sources said that an attack on the heroin trade in Afghanistan held political difficulties for the Government. Officials admit that up to five per cent of the heroin held in the country was under the control of the Northern Alliance which America hopes will back any future military action.



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