Overview: The U.S. Response

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Crew members of the USS Enterprise watch as planes take off October 10

After claiming "free range" over Afghanistan, U.S. troops continued their bombing raids against Taliban and Al Qaeda strongholds Wednesday. Encouraged by progress made over the first three days of attacks, President Bush says strikes can now continue "around the clock."

Al Qaeda spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith appeared on Qatar's Al Jazeera network Tuesday congratulating the men who hijacked the four planes involved in the September 11th attacks, and promising a massive holy war against the U.S. "America must know that the storm of airplanes will not stop and there are thousands of young people who look forward to death like the Americans look forward to life," he said. Concerned that the terrorist organization might have used the broadcast to transmit "a message" to waiting terrorist cells, Secretary of State Colin Powell assigned analysts to examine every aspect of the transmission. Powell also praised television networks for showing the message only once.

Meanwhile, humanitarian airdrops continued throughout Afghanistan, and four United Nations workers were reported dead after a bomb hit a UN office in Kabul.

  • The military angle: U.S. planes continued their assault on Taliban and Al Qaeda outposts throughout Afghanistan.

  • Security at home: Federal and local officials continued to bulk up domestic security as the nation entered its fourth day on "high alert." Changes include increased police presence in major cities and at key tourist sites. Voicing his concern for public safety, President Bush chastised Congress for leaking strategic information, calling such disclosures "unacceptable." Wednesday morning, Congressional leaders met with the President to devise a mutually acceptable balance between information-sharing and necessary confidentiality.

    In Florida, the FBI continued its investigation into a deadly case of anthrax. A tabloid newspaper editor died last week after exposure to the disease, and anthrax spores were detected in a co-workers nasal passages. Hundreds of people who worked in the same buiding as the deceased editor are being tested; authorities "doubt" this is a naturally occurring case of the disease, but as yet have no evidence suggesting a terrorist link.

  • More appointments: President Bush announced Tuesday that Richard Clarke will oversee cyber security issues and retired Army General Wayne Downing will coordinate anti-terror efforts with military and intelligence officials.

    Round two Almost exactly 24 hours after the first airstrikes began, U.S. warplanes began a second round of attacks against military sites in Afghanistan. Pentagon officials confirm the second wave of strikes is targeting areas similar to those hit in Sunday's attacks; new explosions have been reported near the city of Kandahar, for example, which was bombarded over the weekend.

    Monday morning, as officials prepared to launch the new round of attacks, President Bush acknowledged many Americans' lingering fears, and underlined the "just nature" of the airstrikes, and told the country the first strikes hit 31 targets and were "executed as planned."

    At the same time, the U.S. informed the U.N. Security Council that its pursuit of terror networks might take American forces into countries other than Afghanistan. A letter from U.S. Ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, to the Security Council states: "We may find that our self-defense requires further actions with respect to other organizations and other states."

    Public opinion remains firmly behind the White House: Polls taken during the first twelve hours of the attacks showed nearly 90 percent of Americans support the retaliatory strikes against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Bin Laden is suspected of having orchestrated the September 11th terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Centers that left some 6,000 people dead.

    Another day on high alert

    Even amidst calls for heightened security, public officials across the country urged Americans to return to their daily activities. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld braced the U.S. public for a long campaign, saying the attacks could go on for "several years," and acknowledging the airstrikes could elicit new terrorist attacks against the United States. Counter-terrorism efforts are in full swing across the country; in Washington, former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge was sworn in as the head of the newly created Office of Homeland Security.

    The first strike

    It was early Sunday night in Afghanistan when fifty cruise missiles plus the firepower of at least fifteen B-1, B-2, and B-52 warplanes launched against more than a dozen targets, including the airport in Khandahar, originally built by the United States as a way-station for international flights but now the headquarters of the Taliban air force. Reports from Pakistan said that smoke was billowing from the home of the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, following a missile attack. One report had explosions coming from the area of Farmada, a reported bin Laden training camp nine miles from that city. Attacks were also reported in the cities of Jalalabad and Mazer-e-Sharif.

    Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the strikes were meant to destroy the Taliban's air defenses and their military aircraft, and he described them as "very successful." "Our objective," said Rumsfeld, "is to defeat those who use terrorism and those who house and support them."

    At the same time, massive Air Force C-17 cargo planes, also dropped food and medical supplies — both of which were branded as being from the U.S. — on displaced Afghan civilians. President Bush has approved $320 million in aid for Afghanistan; administration officials expect neighboring Pakistan, which accepted a flood of refugees before the air strikes began, to receive humanitarian assistance from the U.S. as well.