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Military, Humanitarian Actions Simultaneously Unfold - 2001-10-07

Two U.S. military missions are going on simultaneously in Afghanistan. One involves strikes on terrorist and Taleban targets. The other is focusing on getting food, medicine and other needed supplies to the Afghan people.

Just a few days before the attacks, President Bush announced a massive package of humanitarian aid for Afghanistan. And when he announced the start of military action, he stressed this assistance will go forward. "The oppressed peoples of Afghanistan," he said, "will know the generosity of America and our allies. As we strike military targets, we'll also drop food, medicine and supplies to the starving and suffering men and women and children of Afghanistan."

As he has throughout this crisis, Mr. Bush emphasized that America's fight is with those who harbor terrorists. He said Afghanistan's Taleban regime is now paying the price for its support of alleged terrorist leader Osama bin Laden - the prime U.S. suspect in the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

President Bush said, "The United States of America is a friend to the Afghan people, and we are the friends of almost a billion worldwide who practice the Islamic faith. The United States of America is an enemy of those who aid terrorists and of the barbaric criminals who profane a great religion by committing murder in its name."

Mr. Bush said Thursday that the United States would provide $320 million in aid to the people of Afghanistan and to neighboring countries facing an influx of Afghan refugees.

Airdrops of food began at about the same time as the air strikes. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made the announcement at the Pentagon. Secretary Rumsfeld said, "The first day was something like 37,000 rations, as I recall, 37,500. But whether or not that all gets delivered is something we won't know for a few hours."

The United States has expressed concern in the past that aid shipments meant for Afghan civilians were being diverted by the Taleban. But given the harsh conditions inside Afghanistan, plagued by famine and drought, administration officials said they had to find a way to get help to those in need.