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SAS are deep behind the lines
by Keith Dovkants in Pakistan
Britain's SAS and SBS are operating deep behind Taliban lines in the south of Afghanistan today in a continuing operation to identify and pinpoint targets for possible further air strikes. According to military sources in Pakistan undercover units have been active around Jalalabad and Kandahar for days in an effort to gain absolutely precise information on Taliban military installations
It was indicated that British special forces have been assigned missions in the south of the country, while American units are operating in the north and west.
The small number of British special forces, probably no more than two squadrons of 100 men from 22 SAS, a unit of up to 50 from the Navy's Special Boat Service, and additional support elements from the Royal Marines 3 Commando Brigade, have had a long-established relationship with the Pashtu-speaking minority in the Kandahar region for many years.
The pinpointing of targets using sophisticated satellite positioning equipment has been made a priority to ensure civilians are not hit. The source said: "They are almost paranoid about this. They want the targets positively identified and positioned down to the last centimetre."
It seems to have paid off in at least one case. There was a reliable report from Jalalabad that a camp used by so-called Arab-Afghans trained by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda group had been wiped out. The camp, near the Naghlu hydro-electric dam, was an important weapons training centre.
The SAS has been helped by Pakistan's ISI - InterServicesIntelligence - sources say and it was believed the undercover units had crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan's territory. This, it was said, has caused a major row inside the military. Some senior officers had argued against direct co-operation with ground troops and after days of bickering Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf ordered a purge of officers who refused to toe his pro-coalition line. One casualty was the director general of the ISI, Lt Gen Mahmood Ahmed. He led a delegation to try to negotiate with the Taliban and he had been arguing that Pakistan should limit its co-operation with the anti-terrorist coalition.
Late last night it emerged that a junior officer had been promoted over him. In Pakistan's military an officer who is superseded by a junior is expected to resign.
Today President Musharraf called on Afghanistan's opposition not to take advantage of the attacks. The President called for a short military campaign, targeting al Qaeda. He said the attacks were "against terrorists, terrorism, their sanctuaries and their supporters".
He said he had told President Bush and Tony Blair: "The Northern alliance must not draw mileage out of this action and the post-action has to be balance."
The air strikes were expected to be followed up today with food drops and the dropping of leaflets explaining to Afghan civilians that the strikes were not directed against them, but against the Taliban's war machine. Radio messages were also being broadcast from Pakistan urging people to remain in their homes and to keep clear of military installations.
The strikes brought troops out on to the streets in some areas of the country. Security was stepped up around government enclaves in Islamabad and in the sensitive border areas police warned that any attempt at creating unrest would be stamped on.
Demonstrations were banned in many areas. But the attacks immediately triggered the fatwa - decree - instructing moslems to wage a holy war against America and its allies.
Hardline religious leaders called their followers to arms, but the government warned that anyone inciting violence would be arrested. Leader of the fundamentalist JUI party, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, was placed under house arrest after he called on his followers to fight for the Taliban.
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), October 08, 2001
It figures that the British SAS would be more active on the ground than our intellegence and specialized strike forces. Their SAS, at least, speak the language. Ours do not. It always helps if you can communicate with the locals.
-- Wayward (firstname.lastname@example.org), October 08, 2001.