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Britain Predicts Long Campaign in Afghanistan - 2001-10-16


Britain says there will be no early conclusion to the U.S.-led military campaign against terrorists and their protectors based in Afghanistan. Britain also says it could take a decade to rebuild Afghanistan once the fighting ends.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has told parliament that the first nine-days of U.S.-led air strikes have severely damaged the military capability of Afghanistan's ruling Taleban.

Mr. Straw says Britain continues to participate in the military operation, providing reconnaissance flights, air refueling and, on two occasions, firing cruise missiles from British submarines.

Despite the initial success, Mr. Straw said there is no end in sight to the fighting. "The terrain, the weather, the complexity of the targets mean that we can expect no early conclusion to this campaign," he said. "It will take months, not days or weeks."

He repeated the objectives of the campaign, which was organized following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

"Acting in self-defense, our aims are to dismantle the terrorists' network, to break the power of those who harbor the terrorists, and to end the threat to security at home," said Mr. Straw. "We will achieve these aims by a combination of military, political, and humanitarian means."

Mr. Straw rejected suggestions that an international court try Osama bin Laden, the chief suspect in the U.S. attacks. "He and his associates are not going to deliver themselves up," he said. "So those who call for him to go on trial are not so much whistling in the wind, as evading the clearest and the only choice - whether to indulge and to appease Bin Laden by doing nothing, or to defeat his evil by taking effective military action within a comprehensive political strategy. I have heard of, and I know of, no other choice."

In a related development, Britain's Foreign Office has issued a document saying it could take 5 to 10 years to rebuild Afghanistan once the fighting ends.

It says emergency relief will have to come early and will be expensive. It notes that $5 billion was spent to rebuild Bosnia, and Afghanistan's population is four times larger.

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