Dual US Objective: Finding Bin Laden and Restraining the Russians

If, as US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers claim, most of the objectives of the three-day US air raids over Afghanistan have been accomplished, then why must the strikes go on “more or less around the clock”? as the secretary put it.
The question exercising most military experts consulted by debkafile is: Why do US generals believe it necessary at this point to carry out a level of “carpet” bombing never directed against Saddam Hussein’s Baghdad or Milosovic’s Belgrade? After all, how many strategic targets does Afghanistan have? The answer has little to do with military tactics. According to debkafile ‘s military and intelligence sources, at the moment of writing, the Americans have no idea where Osama Bin Laden, the terrorist they are after, is hiding.
On Sunday, October 7, exactly 1 hour and 50 minutes before the first US air bombardment, two light planes took off from Kahandar airport, without lights. They appeared on the radar screens of US attacking bombers for five minutes before vanishing, never to be traced until now. According to the intelligence coming in from Kandahar to US intelligence, those small, shadowy aircraft carried Bin Laden, the Taliban leader Mullah Mustafa Omar and their top lieutenants to a secret destination. The ease of their escape bears testimony, according to military observers, to the long-term planning capabilities of Bin Laden’s military advisers. On the assumption that the US bombardment would be executed primarily by heavy B-52 bombers and a small number of B-1 craft, they waited for the first sortie to pass and the sky left clear, before taking off into the dark yonder.
debkafile‘s military experts presume that the two fugitive craft headed north to a secret landing strip as yet undiscovered by US satellites in the Hindu Kush mountains. For the time being, therefore, the Americans have run out of strategic targets in Afghanistan, except at the cost of heavy civilian casualties. Their plan therefore is to keep the aircraft up over the mountains around the clock in the hope of spotting “emerging targets”.
But the Americans have a second reason for maintaining a round-the-clock air presence: the secret Russian plan they have got wind of. Our military sources and informants in Moscow reveal that the tanks, the APCs and the self-propelled artillery Moscow gave the forces of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance are in fact manned by Russian troops. Altogether three armored brigades of the 201rd Russian Motorized Rifle Division are now poised on the outskirts of Kabul, planning to enter the Afghan capital ahead of US forces.
This exercise would repeat the gambit the Russians pulled in the 1999 Kosovo War, when they beat NATO to the draw by taking over Kosovo’s main airport before the alliance had a chance to effect a troop landing there.
By their round-the-clock bombing threat, the Americans hope this time to deter the Russians from jumping in first again.
But who knows? Bin Laden might find himself fighting the Russians again – this time against the Americans to boot. In Afghanistan anything can happen.

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