Skip to comments.Special Forces Gunship Enters Fighting
Posted on 10/16/2001 6:32:25 AM PDT by Pericles
Tuesday October 16 7:40 AM ET
Special Forces Gunship Enters Fighting
By KATHY GANNON,
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - A U.S. special-forces gunship went into action Tuesday, raking a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan with heavy machine gun and cannon fire. U.S. jets returned to Kabul, blasting military sites north of the city.
First use of the low-flying, lumbering turboprop AC-130 over the Taliban headquarters of Kandahar followed the fiercest daylight raids of the offensive and marked a stepping-up of attacks on Taliban bases and leadership.
It also signaled U.S. confidence that more than a week of attacks by ship-launched cruise missiles and high-flying jets had greatly eased the threat from Taliban air defense.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, in neighboring Pakistan to shore up support for the U.S.-led campaign, said Afghanistan's Islamic regime was ``under enormous pressure'' but refused to say whether he thought it near collapse.
Tuesday's fresh waves of air strikes targeted the Taliban at multiple fronts - military bases and airports outside the capital of Kabul, Taliban leaders' southern base city of Kandahar and the key northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
In mid-afternoon, two jets dropped five bombs on military targets in the Kheir Khana section of northern Kabul and two more bombs around the airport, raising a huge cloud of black smoke.
Taliban Information Ministry official Abdul Himat said 13 civilians died in the pre-dawn assault at Kandahar. The Taliban also said two people were killed in Tuesday's attack on Mazar-e-Sharif. The claims could not be independently verified.
In Washington, a defense official confirmed the overnight attack was led by an AC-130, marking the first acknowledged use of special-forces aircraft in the offensive, which began on Oct. 7. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.
Previous raids had targeted anti-aircraft artillery sites and other military installations with the aim of making the skies safe for aircraft like the AC-130. The Taliban are believed to still hold an unknown number of shoulder-fired Stinger missiles capable of bringing down aircraft, however.
High-firepower AC-130s typically are used to support ground forces trained for small-unit operations. There was no word whether the gunship's deployment meant special forces had entered the battle on the ground.
Aiming to make the skies safe, U.S. forces have made particular targets out of airports in Taliban territory throughout the campaign. Attacks put the Jalalabad airport in eastern Afghanistan out of commission almost from the start.
Other strikes have pounded Taliban jets at Kabul and the sprawling airport complex at Kandahar, which holds at least 300 housing units of Osama bin Laden's followers.
The only other major airfields in Taliban territory, at Shindand in southwestern Afghanistan and in Herat, have also taken repeated strikes.
The United States launched the air campaign to root out bin Laden - the top suspect in the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States - and to punish Afghanistan's rulers, the Taliban Islamic militia, who harbor him.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, speaking at the Pentagon, suggested Monday that U.S. airstrikes could next start targeting Taliban front-line positions facing Afghan opposition fighters in the northeast.
``I suspect that in the period ahead that's not going to be a very safe place to be'' for Taliban fighters, Rumsfeld said. ``We hope to have improved targeting information in the period ahead.
Taking advantage of the massive assaults, opposition forces on the ground claimed Monday to have advanced within miles of their former stronghold of Mazar-e-Sharif.
In the Tajikistan capital Dushanbe, a spokesman for the opposition northern alliance said opposition troops were approaching Mazar-e-Sharif from the northeast and northwest and that some units were as close as 4 miles away.
The claim by Abdul Vadud, the military attache of the opposition-controlled Afghan Embassy in Dushanbe, could not be confirmed.
Mazar-e-Sharif is the largest city in northern Afghanistan and is dominated by ethnic minority Uzbeks. The fundamentalist Taliban, who are Sunni Muslims, captured the city in 1998 and have since ruled it with an iron hand.
Taking the city would enable the opposition to consolidate its grip on the small area it controls in the north, since the town controls routes running east to west and linking pockets of the northern alliance's strength.
Pakistan, which has agreed to lend logistical support for the campaign, has pressed for the U.S. and British offensive to avoid directly helping opposition troops. Pakistan fears the northern alliance, its longtime opponent, will seize power from the Taliban.
With Powell beside him, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf told an Islamabad news conference Tuesday the military strikes should ``short and targeted.''
The U.S. secretary of state found himself struggling to calm tensions between Pakistan and India after new fighting in the disputed province of Kashmir.
The United States had been trying to head off just such a flare in hostilities between the longtime rivals, fearing they would district key ally Pakistan for the campaign in Afghanistan.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Kathy Gannon contributed to this report from Islamabad, Pakistan.
Oh goody, let's remind the Taliban soldiers that they are on the wrong side.
Yes it is. Come back to this thread later as I am sure some pictures/stats will appear. I'd definitely rather be fer us than agin' us....
Last night, the folks familiar with this aircraft, said that this isn't puff the magic dragon, puff was a predecessor to this plane. It's doing the same function as puff, just better.
Sounds like Arnie when he says, "If it bleeds we can keeeel it"
To say that the "Spectre" is the same as "Puff" is about like saying "Bigfoot" is just another pickup truck!
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