US Launches Fresh Afghan Offensive to Bolster Karzai

The Americans have always said that their army is designed to fight wars on two fronts. And yesterday that was what it was doing.

2003.03.21 – Peshawar, Pakistan

The Americans have always said that their army is designed to fight wars on two fronts. And yesterday that was what it was doing.

Minutes after the first missiles slammed into Baghdad, the skies of southern Afghanistan were filled with the din of American combat helicopters hunting in the mountains for al-Qa’ida fighters and other armed opponents of Hamid Karzai’s frail American-backed government.

The US military at Bagram air base, near Kabul, said the operation had been planned for several months and insisted that it was purely coincidental that it began during the opening salvos in Iraq. But governments rarely tell the truth in times of war.

The operation – one of the biggest offensives of the past year – was an attempt by the Americans to send a signal to their opponents that its armed forces in Afghanistan did not intend to slacken. It may also have been part of tireless attempts by the US to bracket Saddam Hussein’s Iraq with their “war on terror” against Osama bin Laden’s al-Qa’ida, a link that much of the rest of the world does not accept.

It was probably meant as a deterrent. US military officials have made little secret of their view that an Iraq war may harden anti-Americanism.

It will also be an attempt to reassure the Karzai administration, which must realise that its struggle to build a credible government – always difficult in an ethnically divided society awash with weapons and warlords – will now be harder still.

Author: Phil Reeves

News Service: Independent (UK)

URL: http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia_china/story.jsp?story=389205