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October 7, 2001
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Attacks will continue, says Rumsfeld

"The operation launched by the United States today will continue until we achieve our objective, which is to knock out the terrorist networks operating out of Afghanistan," Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defence, said in course of a media briefing at the Pentagon around 3.30 pm EDT.

"We have said that we will use every element of American influence and power to wage war against the Al Qaeda network and all who support it, and that is what we are doing now," Rumsfeld said.

The defence secretary said that the operation was multi-pronged, and that the military force now in use would complement humanitarian, diplomatic and financial efforts now on to cripple and eliminate the terrorist network.

"The first phase of the operation is intended to remove from the map Taleban aircraft and airports," Rumsfeld said. "In order to begin humanitarian efforts on the ground, it is necessary to ensure that the ground forces do not face the threat of Taleban air strikes."

Rumsfeld said that the ongoing operation was intended to have several outcomes: To make clear to the Taleban that harbouring terrorists was unacceptable, to acquire information for further strikes against Al Qaeda, and to make it difficult for the terrorist fraternity to use Afghanistan as a base.

The defence secretary pointed out that it was too early to assess the results of the first wave of attacks, and warned that second-guessing in such matters would only cause confusion. "This is going to be a long-drawn war, I wish to make clear that there is no silver bullet, no one dramatic strike that will achieve the required objectives," Rumsfeld said.

"There are no high value targets in Afghanistan," Rumsfeld said in response to a question, indicating that the diffuse Taleban military structure could not be expected to be taken out by means of a single strike or two.

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers, who was sworn in just under a week ago, joined Rumsfeld in the briefing, and said that land and sea-based aircraft, surface ships and submarines were all involved in the initial operation.

Myers said 50 Tomahawk Cruise missiles were launched in the first wave of attacks, from two groups of battleships. said 15 bombers and 25 strike aircraft, both sea and land-based, launched the missiles at 12:30 p.m. EDT, Myers told the media.

Terming the strike "the early stages of ongoing combat operations" against the Taleban and Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network, Myers said the attacks included B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers as well as ships and submarines in the region. Myers added that the B2 stealth bombers flew roundtrip from their base at Whitman Air Force Base in Missouri.

Myers indicated that in order to ensure that Taleban and Al Qaeda installations were hit while ensuring minimum civilian casualties, a bulk of the ordnance used in the first wave of attacks were "smart weapons", namely precision-controlled ordnance such as GBU-31-JDAM bombs.

"Not all our ordnance was of the precision variety, because in the case of certain targets, it is not possible to achieve the desired effect with such weaponry," Myers said.

Rumsfeld further said that the US had also been dropping food and medicines over various parts of the country, even as the attack picked up in gear. "Two more airdrops involving C-17s (the Globemaster IIIs) are planned for later today," Myers added, indicating that these would drop a further 37,500 parcels of food and medicine over various parts of Afghanistan.

Asked whether the US was simultaneously planning to counter possible retaliatory strikes by terrorists, Rumsfeld said, "The US has been on a state of high alert since September 11. The various forces that deal with law enforcement are aware that we have to be sensitive to the possibility of terrorist attacks in our country. However, it also needs to be remembered that attacks of the kind that we have been seeing have been planned weeks, months and years in advance, and therefore it would be a bit far-fetched to assume immediate retaliatory strikes.

"We cannot," said Rumsfeld, "defend against every imaginable and even unimaginable attack. The only way out is to take the battle to the terrorists and to those individuals and organisations supporting and harbouring such people, and to stop them doing it.

"The United States is determined not to be terrorised," Rumsfeld said.

The Attack on America: The Complete Coverage

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