Crack force set to prise bin Laden from his lair : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Crack force set to prise bin Laden from his lair By Macer Hall (Filed: 30/09/2001)

SPECIAL forces units are preparing to launch underground attacks on the network of tunnels and caves that conceal Osama bin Laden and his guerrilla fighters.

The SAS and American elite troops will attempt to penetrate the fortified subterranean hideouts to kill or capture terrorists under plans being drawn up by military strategists for a "warning shot" in the war against terror.

Commanders know, however, that such close-quarter combat under the mountains of southern Afghanistan could lead to heavy casualties.

Historically, Afghan fighters have used their detailed knowledge of the caves and hidden trails through the mountains to defeat invaders. Their ability to strike with surprise, then vanish, was the key to their success against the Soviet Army in the 1980s.

Bin Laden's forces have burrowed a complex web of tunnels and caves beneath the mountains. Each base is defended by gun emplacements and anti-aircraft missiles launchers. The networks have dozens of escape tunnels and are linked to observation posts on mountain sides.

An assault on one or more of the caves would need a substantial force of aircraft, artillery and airborne troops to support it. Air strikes with deep penetration weapons would begin the attack, to knock out defences and to blast holes into the caves.

The United States could launch Tomahawk Block III missiles, which are guided by the Global Positioning Satellite system and have 1,000lb warheads, from submarines or warships in the Gulf. For greater accuracy, GPS-guided GBU28 "bunker busting" bombs could be dropped by F15E Eagles, F16 Fighting Falcons or other attack aircraft.

Then a special forces team would be deployed by helicopter - CH-53 Sea Stallions are an option - to attack guerrillas flushed out by the bombing and infiltrate the tunnels. In addition to the SAS and US Delta Force, other elite units with mountain fighting capability may be involved in an attack, including the Americans' 75th Ranger Regiment and the Royal Marines 3 Commando Brigade.

Charles Heyman, the editor of Jane's World Armies, said: "It would be a very difficult operation, there is no doubt about that. Commanders will want a lot of troops and aircraft as well as artillery in support because many defences may still be in place after air strikes.

"The classic terrorist tactic is to desert these places and move away and not get themselves caught by properly organised military forces of any sort. But if there are people trying to defend them, you could have a really bloody battle on your hands."

Contingency plans for airlifting casualties out of the battle zone will also be necessary. American strategists are drawing on the experiences of the "tunnel rats" of the Vietnam War, the US soldiers who, armed with grenades, pistols and torches, fought in the hundreds of miles of tunnels dug by Communist guerillas.

While military technology has moved on, with thermal imaging equipment used to track enemies, the battle would come down to the same techniques of hand-to-hand fighting in claustrophobic conditions.

The terrorists' tunnels are believed to be able to conceal thousands of fighters for months. They include dormitories and other living quarters, communication centres and armouries stacked with Kalashnikov rifles, mortars, ammunition and explosives.

Some of the caves have lighting and electricity supplied by generators and makeshift systems of hot water pipes for heating. Al-Qaeda fighters live a sparse existence with just the Koran for comfort.

Bin Laden was known to be based in a cave in a mountain range above Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, the subterranean centre of his global terror network, until disappearing before the US hijack attacks.

His underground lair was reported to have a library of Islamic texts, an arms store and a communication room including computers, faxes and a satellite telephone.

-- Rich Marsh (, October 01, 2001


Since we can't use nerve gas, how about filling the bunkers with combustible gas and lighting a match?

-- Steve McClendon (, October 01, 2001.

I was wondering along the same lines. Why not just smoke them out?

-- gas (ofv@rious.matters), October 01, 2001.

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