Afghanistan: October 15, 2001

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Air raids continued. The Taliban continued to try and claim large civilian losses, but without much success. Their claim that 200 civilians were killed by an errant bomb outside Jalalabad were diminished when journalists were brought in and few graves could be found. Moreover, the US pointed out that recent raids on nearby Taliban targets had resulted in three and half hours of secondary explosions. This apparently indicated a hit on an ammunition dump. In such situations, unexploded shells are often thrown far from the dump. These shells often explode when they land. This could be the cause of the damage to the Afghan village, as this sort of thing has happened before when ammo dumps exploded (usually because of poor ammunition handling or a Northern Alliance attack.) US bombers are now going to back to finish off previously bombed targets. More special operations troops and equipment (particularly long range helicopters and support aircraft) are moving into the area. 

There are still some fixed targets left for the bombers. Not all the ammo and fuel sumps have been found, nor have all the key tunnel complexes been found. But the next, and most dangerous, phase of the Afghan campaign is looming. You can't nab bin Laden or any of his henchmen from the air, this has to be done on the ground. While there are already some American troops on the ground, they are just scouting. When more troops do go in, it's difficult to send in a lot. Every American soldier inside Afghanistan requires several hundred pounds of supplies a day to keep him going. American agents are also meeting with tribal leaders currently allied with the Taliban. These men can be swayed by money, but some are also demanding positions in any post-Taliban government (providing lucrative corruption opportunities). Moreover, it's important to get more humanitarian supplies  into the country. While most of the needed food supplies (some 300,000 tons) for the Winter are already stockpiled in Pakistan, it's increasingly difficult getting it past the Taliban. Air war is easy, ground war is hard. 

 

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