Air Campaign Ratchets Up Against Front Line

Story Number: NNS011101-07Release Date: 11/1/2001 12:54:00 PM
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By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- About 80 percent of the air campaign on Oct. 29 was directed against front-line Taliban and Al Qaeda forces, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Oct. 30.

Air operations included targeting terrorist and Taliban command and control facilities, including bunkers and tunnels. Joint Staff spokesman Rear Adm. John D. Stufflebeem said the efforts included strikes in 13 planned target areas as well as against targets in several engagement zones.

U.S. forces used about 70 strike aircraft. This included 50 to 55 carrier-based strike aircraft, and six to eight each of land-based tactical aircraft and long-range bombers. The strike aircraft are only the tip of the sword, DoD officials noted. The number of aircraft sorties doubles if support aircraft such as aerial refuelers, surveillance and combat search and rescue aircraft are included.

Stufflebeem said the coordination between the pilots and U.S. ground controllers in Afghanistan has improved the bombing accuracy on front-line Taliban positions. The Northern Alliance asked for U.S. advisers.

"They've asked for support, they've asked for help, they've asked for liaison for the air strikes," he said. "Any time you have people on the ground you will improve the performance." The risk of putting U.S. service members in place in Afghanistan is a calculated one, he observed.

"We are always concerned about the safety of Americans anywhere in the world in a combat environment," Stufflebeem said. "We are taking an element of risk in putting combat forces on the ground, but it's a measured risk. It's a risk that's part of a plan.

"In any conflict, to assure an outcome, you have to take risk. Certainly our forces on the ground ... are going to be a concern to commanders who are responsible for them."

Stufflebeem said the Oct. 29 effort included leaflet drops in the north and east of the country and continued Commando Solo II broadcast missions. "Two C-17s delivered 34,000 humanitarian daily rations yesterday and brought total to date to 990,000," he said. "If drops go as scheduled today we should reach more than 1 million."

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