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The war begins

Paul Rogers author pic
Paul Rogers
7 October 2001

There are three aspects that stand out following the start of the conflict against the Taliban regime and the bin Laden network.

The first is that the initial attacks were quite small scale, much smaller than the onset of the Gulf War. There will be detailed bomb damage assessment already underway, with further targets to be hit in the coming nights, and initial targets to be attacked again. There are likely to be significant casualties, but details may not be forthcoming from the Kabul regime, and certainly not from Washington.

Secondly, all the raids were staged from US or UK territory or from ships at sea. No bases in neighbouring countries were used and it is unlikely that any will be in the coming days. If they had been available, the air attacks would have been more intense and therefore over quicker.

Thirdly, this means a period of many days of air attack, with a developing reaction in the Middle East and South West Asia, especially Pakistan. The closure of the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia is also significant, as is rising tension in Indonesia.

Among the “unknowns” are reactions from the occupied territories and South Lebanon, and possible incitements from Iraq. The Saddam Hussein regime, in particular, may use the conflict to escalate tensions with the US, knowing that the Saudi authorities would be very reluctant to let the US use Saudi bases for counteraction against Iraq.

Overlying all of this is the continuing suspicion that the bin Laden network/coalition positively wants a strong US military response. From such a perspective, the greater the US presence in the Gulf and South West Asia, and the greater the military action, the better.

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