Washington American and British forces unleashed missile attacks Sunday against military targets and Osama bin Laden's training camps inside Afghanistan, broadening the war against terrorists blamed for the attacks that murdered thousands in New York and Washington.
"We will not waver, we will not tire," said President Bush, speaking from the White House as Tomahawk cruise missiles found targets halfway around the globe. "We will not falter and we will not fail."
- U.S., British planes hit Taliban targets in Afghanistan
- Bush delcares that we are "friends of the Afghan people"
- Attacks to target training camps, disrupt communication networks
- Bush gave the Taliban a list of demands--they were not met, and now the Taliban is paying the price
- Bush: "There can be no peace in a world with sudden terror"
- Bush: "We did not ask for this mission, but we will complete it"
click to download a map (.pdf file) showing U.S. forces in the area
In a chilling response released less than two hours later, bin Laden vowed that Americans "will never dream of security or see it before we live it and see it in Palestine, and not before the infidel's armies leave the land of Muhammad." He spoke in a videotaped statement prepared before the attacks. A spokesman said both bin Laden and the leader of the Taliban ruling council of Afghanistan had survived the missile attacks.
Bush ordered the strike less than four weeks after terrorists flew hijacked airplanes into the World Trade Center twin towers and the Pentagon. Besides the death toll _ estimated at more than 5,000 _ those attacks dealt a severe blow to an American economy that had been sputtering even beforehand.
At the Pentagon on Sunday, the nation's top uniformed military officer said the initial strike involved 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles, launched from ships. Gen. Richard Myers said 15 bombers and 25 strike aircraft, both sea and land-based, were also involved in the military operation. The strike came at 12:30 p.m. EDT _ nighttime in Afghanistan.
Myers, sworn into office less than a week ago, termed the strike "the early stages of ongoing combat operations" against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and bin Laden's al-Qaida network. He said the attacks included B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers as well as ships and submarines that have been deployed in the region in the days since Sept. 11.
Bush spoke less than an hour after the first explosion could be heard in Kabul, followed by the sounds of anti-aircraft fire. Power went off throughout the city almost immediately after the first of five thunderous blasts.
Bush said the military strike would be accompanied by the delivery of food, medicine and other supplies needed to sustain the people of Afghanistan. That was expected to start soon.
The president announced the assault in a nationally televised appearance from the White House Treaty Room, and readily acknowledged that in the wake of the attacks on New York and Washington, "I know many Americans feel fear today."
He said the government was working "around the world and around the clock" to provide security.
Within a few hours of Sunday's attack, officials said Vice President Dick Cheney had been taken to an undisclosed secure site and the State Department issued a worldwide caution to Americans warning of the possibility of "strong anti-American sentiment and retaliatory actions against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world."
Washington, D.C., police shut down the street in front of the State Department as a precaution.
Bush said the military effort was only part of a campaign against terrorism, "another front in a war that has already been joined through diplomacy, intelligence, the freezing of financial assets and arrests of known terrorists by law enforcement agents in 38 countries."
"We did not ask for this mission, but we will fulfill it," he said.
The administration has labored to build an international coalition of support for its offensive, and Bush declared, "We are supported by the collective will of the world."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair seconded that a short while later. In a speech to his own nation he said of the Taliban, "They were given the choice of siding with justice or siding with terror. They chose to side with terror."
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder also expressed his support, and the Russian foreign ministry said all means must be used to fight terrorism. Russian President Vladimir Putin has become an important supporter of the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism, opening Russia's airspace to U.S. deliveries of humanitarian aid and helping lobby Central Asian nations to lend their backing to the operation.
Administration officials said that Bush had telephoned Putin, and that Bush, Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell had placed calls to more than a dozen foreign leaders in all.
Congressional leaders, told in advance of the strike, issued a joint statement of support. "We stand united with the president and with our troops, and will continue to work together to do what is necessary to bring justice to these terrorists and those who harbor them," said the statement by House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Senate Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt and Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott.
At the White House, spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush was receiving regular updates about the military operation, and shuttling between the White House residence and the Oval Office.
As the hour for the missile strikes approached, Fleischer said Bush had remarked, "I gave them fair warning and they chose not to heed it."
He said the strike was aimed at the Taliban, the ruling regime that harbors bin Laden, long identified by administration officials as the mastermind behind last month's attacks in the United States.
The president had issued a series of demands in the days following the strikes at the World Trade Center and Pentagon _ all of them ignored.
"Now the Taliban will pay a price," he vowed.
"Today we focus on Afghanistan," Bush said, "but the battle is broader."
American troops have been streaming into the region for weeks. After Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld visited neighboring Uzbekistan on Friday, U.S. military forces started arriving at a former Soviet air base in Khanabad, about 90 miles north of the Uzbek-Afghan border.