Washington Twenty U.S. warplanes and naval forces launched a second day of attacks on Afghanistan Monday, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the initial round of bombing had been at least moderately successful against the Taliban's air defenses, airfields and aircraft.
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a joint news conference with Rumsfeld that 31 targets had been struck as of midnight Sunday and that attacks were continuing.
"We are generally pleased with the early results," said Myers, adding that the second wave of attacks was targeting sites similar to those of the first round. Sunday's attacks included Tomahawk missiles fired from a British submarine, but Myers said Monday's assault was by American forces only.
Myers said another 37,000 packages of humanitarian food rations were to be air dropped over Afghanistan as part of Monday's operations, approximately the same number as Sunday.
He said the latest attacks were carried out by 10 U.S. Air Force bombers B-2 stealth planes and B-1Bs as well as 10 strike aircraft launched from aircraft carriers and by naval vessels firing Tomahawk cruise missiles.
Rumsfeld said U.S. and British forces hit some two dozen of their targets. "All U.S. military personnel and aircraft that took part in yesterday's strike are safe and accounted for," he said.
Rumsfeld said leaders of the Taliban and bin Laden's al-Qaida network were among the targets but couldn't say how successful that effort had been.
"Based on our early assessment, we believe that we have made progress toward eliminating the air defense sites that have been located around the country," he said. "We also believe we made an impact on the military air fields that were targeted."
Myers pointed to hits on terrorist training camps as potentially cutting off "inherent great training capability" for bin Laden's network, discounting the fact that some of the camps may have been empty.
He said that Monday's second wave of attacks involved about 10 bomber aircraft and 10 carrier-based tactical aviation assets, which could include warplanes and missiles.
Rumsfeld was asked if the U.S. military was aiding the Northern Alliance and other rebel groups trying to overthrow the Taliban regime, which the United States does not recognize as a legitimate government. "We are working with the elements on the ground that are interested in overthrowing and expelling that group of people," Rumsfeld said.
He cautioned that the military action was part of a broader campaign against terrorism and that a cruise missile was unlikely to settle the matter.
First reports of damage from the U.S. and British assaults indicated most targets appear to have been hit.
Before Sunday's attacks, the Taliban was believed to have about 15 operating fighter-bombers of Soviet vintage, and several hundred tanks and armored vehicles.
Appearing earlier in television interviews, Rumsfeld denied Taliban claims that an aircraft had been shot down in Sunday's attacks.
"There was fire from the ground by various types of surface-to-air missiles," he said on CBS' "The Early Show." But none of the U.S. or British planes was hit and all returned safely, he said.
The bombing attack was only one element of the U.S. and British campaign. It also includes humanitarian food drops.
Sunday's attack threw Tomahawk cruise missiles, 500-pound gravity bombs and computer-guided bombs at targets in at least three cities. The targets included early warning radars, surface-to-air missiles, airfields, aircraft, military command-and-control installations and terrorist camps.
Two C-17 cargo planes followed, dropping some 37,500 packets of food and medicine. The Bush administration hoped the supplies would soften the war's blow for hungry Afghans and those who had fled their homes in anticipation of fighting, as well as help convince them the strike was aimed at terrorists and not them.
Air Force EC-130 Commando Solo aircraft equipped for radio broadcasting flew over the area and broadcast the same message, officials said. Other undisclosed radio messages were directed at the Taliban.
Sources in Afghanistan said the strike began in the capital, Kabul, and that a loud explosion came from the area of an Osama bin Laden training camp about 12 miles south of Jalalabad. Taliban headquarters in Kandahar, that city's airport facilities, housing for followers of bin Laden and the home of a Taliban leader also were hit, Afghan sources said.
Five U.S. airmen who flew missions Sunday said they faced some anti-aircraft fire from Taliban forces but didn't feel threatened.
"We face much more challenging sorties in our routine training," said a bombardier on a B-1B who identified himself as "Vinny" during a conference call with reporters. The call was arranged by Air Force officials on condition his full name not be used.