January 1, 2008
from the Carrier Flight Deck, the Pentagon and Afghanistan’s Ground Zero: a Day
in October 2001
Department of Economics
of New Hampshire
Durham, N.H. 03824
From the flight deck and the skies over Afghanistan
Ashley, age 26, flew in the two-seater Navy F-14 Tomcats off the carrier USS
Carl Vinson during October 7, 2001 – January 2002. She was the only female
pilot in the Black Lions Squadron on board the Vinson (though she is not
in the front seat). The F-14 Tomcat was made famous in the film, Top Gun.
She dropped 500 lb, 1,000lb and 2,000 lb laser and satellite-guided bombs daily
above 15,000 feet high on Afghanistan. The ten Tomcats in the Black Lions on
the Vinson made 40-50 sorties daily over Afghanistan. After one mission,
Ashley remarked: "I was smiling. I had dropped by bombs. They had definitely
hit….I was smiling at the fact that I had done my thing for the country."
The photo depicts Ashley gearing up for a mission on October 18, 2001.
Far up above any possible
anti aircraft threat and dropping technology-guided bombs, the skills required
in the "old fashioned 'airmanship’ are utterly redundant, but the technical
wizardry makes for great media televised virtual reality. The back-seater is
largely superfluous…and women are the equals of men in today’s "feminized" U.S.
Navy? The weapons which Lt. Ashley watches fall
with absolutely no danger to herself - the range of the dreaded Stinger missile
is only 15,700 feet - rain destruction far below upon the enemy and frequently
civilians (as amply documented here in The Afghan Victim Memorial Project),
real people with names like Nazirullah, Mahtab, Abdul Wasaj, Nurgessa, etc.
From the Pentagon briefing room in Washington D.C.:
Thursday, October 18th the official story
forces: 10 bombers and 80 Navy strike aircraft
(from three aircraft carrier battle groups in the Arabian Gulf)
18 targets including a communication center in Jalalabad, 5 garrisons in
Kandahar, 3 garrisons around Jalalabad and another 9 around Kabul.
On October 19th,
Pentagon spokesman, Admiral Stufflebeem reported, "Today is the 13th day
of operations against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Let me give you some more
information about what we did. On Thursday we struck 18 planned target areas.
Those included airfields and air defenses; AAA sites, including dispersed armor
and radar at those sites; ammunition and vehicle storage depots; artillery
camps; troop deployment sites; as well as military training facilities,
including armored vehicles, trucks and buildings. The CINC used over 90 strike
aircraft. About 75 of those were carrier-based tactical jets; less than five are
shore-based tactical aircraft; and about 10 land-based bombers."
In the course of the press
conference, a couple revealing exchanges ensued illustrating Pentagon-Speak.
We have an image of the Kabul military barracks west to show you. This is
located in central Afghanistan. It's one of the training facilities and
garrisons serving the central Taliban corps. The facility consists of barracks,
support buildings, and vehicle maintenance and storage. As you can see,
numerous armored vehicles and buildings have been destroyed. While the level of
the occupancy of these facilities is unknown, destroying them makes them
unavailable for the Taliban use during the winter months.
also have several weapon-system video clips to show you.
When was that, Admiral? Was that yesterday?
That was yesterday, as the video.
first target you'll see in the video is a surface-to-surface missile-support
facility near Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan. This facility supports missile
launch and stowage. This first clip shows the support vehicles being struck.
Do we know what kind of missiles?
I don't know. I'm sorry. We can get that for you. Surface to surface. I don't
want to guess. We'll get you the answer to that one.
These are planes that carry bombs, though; right?
Q: No, no. I'm talking about the missiles that were hit.
In terms of the target.
the next clip, a tank is protecting a facility, and is taken out.
Where is that? Also the same place?
This is in the same facility.
Excuse me, Admiral. You said it was a SAM missile support facility, and then
you said --
Surface to surface.
It was a surface you did say? Beg your pardon.
The last two clips are targets at the Kandahar training facility. The first is
a barracks building in the foreground, hit by one coalition aircraft, while
another in the background is struck by a second aircraft.
the second clip, the view is from one aircraft targeting or lasing a
maintenance building, and you'll see a second aircraft's bomb hit near this
target just before this jet's bombs strike this building.
What was the target on that, just the building?
These were barracks. Barracks and a maintenance building.
quick follow-up. Yesterday -- among the targets hit yesterday was a moving
vehicle that passed by the area where CNN was operating in near Kandahar. Can
you give us any indication of what that -- who was believed to be in that
I don't -- I'm sorry. I don't have anything on that, Jamie. I don't know.
Q: Admiral, yesterday there were photographs coming out from the Kabul area
showing that individual homes were hit. Can you talk about whether or not the
United States has determined that the Taliban, for whatever reason, are using
individual homes for military purposes? Or do we have information, perhaps,
that these are the residences of Taliban leaders?
I don't have any specific information on those homes. I will say that we do
track very carefully where we put our weapons, and if it -- the rare occasion
that we aren't exactly on a target, we admit that. We regret that.
is also not inconceivable that a propaganda organ of the Taliban might use this
tactic that you're referring to their advantage. But I have not personally seen
any reports that indicate that they've done that.
Q: Admiral, on the Kandahar barracks, to what extent are those barracks still
occupied, with all the bombs falling, or are they just empty buildings at this
point? And specifically, given that it's in Kandahar, to what extent are al
Qaeda forces integrated with Taliban and might have been in that barracks?
Well, we don't know who would have been in that barracks. We know it's
flattened now, so we know that it's no longer available for anybody to occupy.
That is part of systematically taking away that military capability. There now
is not a garrison at that location to come back to, to refresh, to retrain, and
So it doesn't really matter if it was occupied or not?
It does not. It is -- it was a designated military target of the Taliban. There
may or may not have been somebody there, they may or may not have been
associated with al Qaeda, but it is no longer available to them.
Street Journal reporters added that land-based F-15E fighter jets
(flying out of Oman and Kuwait) had joined the fray, hitting suspected sites of
the Taliban's 55th "Batallion" (sic). In addition, U.S. Defense officials admitted
that an unmanned RQ-1 Predator spy plane armed with two Hellfire anti-tank
missiles had been deployed on the 18th for the first time.
Operated remotely, the drone's main value as an armed vehicle is that it can be
used quickly to strike because it is collecting near to real-time intelligence.
The Predator carries two color video cameras and can remain airborne for more
than forty hours.
Center for Defense Intelligence reported, "heavy air strikes on Kandahar
and daytime raids occurred in Kabul were aimed at a military base and air
defenses; strikes were reported against a Taliban tank unit. In addition to
targeting troops and weapons, attack the Taliban's elite 55th (055) Afghan Arab
Brigade, made up mostly of al Qaeda fighters, and others who have been driven
out of hiding by bombing. TV stations and terrorist camps were likely targets
55th Brigade, numbering some 5,000 troops financed and trained by bin Laden,
had operated on the Old Road front north of Kabul since 1996, but later shifted
to Kandahar where it was stationed when the air war started.
U.S. bombing and strafing by AC-130s was specifically targeting the 55th.
the ground zero (level) where the U.S. bombs struck
BBC News reported that at least three cities had been hit on the 18th:
Kabul, Kandahar, and Khogyani/Jalalabad.
I calculate that between 27-36 civilians died under U.S. bombs on Thursday,
October 18, 2001.
A quick view from ground zero in Kabul:
Caption : KABUL,
AFGHANISTAN: Afghans recover the dead (covered with cloth on the right and back)
outside a destroyed house in Qala-e-Zaman Khan area in Kabul October 18, 2001,
after American planes bomb the capital for the whole day. At least six
civilians including women and children died as US bombs hit several residential
areas of the Afghan capital [Photo by Shah Marai, copyright 2001 by AFP and
ClariNet]. Source: http://www.ummah.com/inewsletter/massacres/afghanistan/index3.htm
U.S. attacks on October 18th killed civilians in three areas of
Kabul, one site in Nangarhar province and hit areas of Kandahar killing and
injuring people. A huge fire blazed early Thursday
morning near Kabul airport as U.S. jets launched new attacks. A Navy
F/A-18 dropped a 1'000 lb bomb on the neighborhood of Qalaye Zaman Khan, in
eastern Kabul, missing a Taliban tank garrison located several hundred meters
away. The Afghan Islamic Press reported 8 died in this attack. The attack destroyed 3-6 homes and killed at
least 6 civilians - including 5 members of
Nazirullah’s family (a woman and 4 children). RAWA reported,
"3 houses were destroyed in Qala-e-Zaman
Khan. 5 members of one family were killed which included 4 women and a child."
Both RAWA and Agence France Presse reported that a young girl was
killed in the eastern suburb of Kabul called Macroyan.
A U.S jet dropped a bomb upon a nearby military base. The AFP reporter said,
"The explosion was very heavy. It shattered windows of houses in the nearby
Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood."
The target was a small Taliban tank garrison.
In memory of
Nazirullah family 5 members
died at noon
on October 18, 2001
Qalaye-Zaman neighborhood of eastern Kabul. A 1,000 lb bomb destroyed six
homes in eastern Kabul. The U.S. bomb killed Abdullah Nazirullah’s
grandmother, sister, brother, sister-in-law and mother. The bomb missed a
Taliban garrison situated more than 100 meters away. A year later Nazirullah
lived next to the rubble of his former home caring for this three-year-old
surviving son whose head was injured in the U.S. bombing. The bombs also
wrecked Mahtab’s home, killing her mother-in-law with flying shrapnel.
Abdullah, 27, added, "this is inhuman and unjust. Those people who did this
will suffer a worse fate."
A U.S Navy
F/A-18 drops four 1,000 lb "precision" bombs, killing 5-8 civilians
At 3:23 P.M.
two other U.S. bombs struck the Badam Bagh tank base and the adjacent
residential area in northern Kabul where the Taliban 37th
commando unit's garrison was located. The bomb destroyed a building and
ammunition dump which exploded, killing 7 shopkeepers and passersby.
October 18 at 03:23pm (local time) two bombs hit the surrounding areas of Badam Bagh
(37th commando unit of Taliban). It is located close to residential
Behroz Khan of Pakistan's The
News, reported from Peshawar that U.S. planes bombed an oil depot in the
populated Khair Khana district of Kabul, hit the airport and surrounding areas,
and struck military camps south of Kabul in Rishkor, Charasyab (an old
Hekmatyar site) and Ghund-i-Talimi.
The power supply system of
Jalalabad was hit by a bomb and the city's TV station tower was destroyed on
Thursday night. The village of Khogyani, 40 kms southwest of
Jalalabad, a center of poppy growing, was struck, killing another 10 civilians
according to the Taliban.
Kandahar was without power
and water for five days as a result of the U.S. bombing. Bombs hit a Taliban
guesthouse, the main prison, and destroyed four homes. Al Jazeera reported that by the 19th,
Taliban air defenses in Kandahar had turned silent,
"The anti-aircraft guns are totally silent........the
Taliban do not have sophisticated weapons to confront the missiles and the
shells which are raining down on Kandahar day and night."
At 10 A.M., a bomb fell in
a field where 10 year-old Abdul Wasaj was playing football, injuring a dozen
Abdul Wasaj, 10
injured at 10
A.M. on October 18, 2001
Abdul had been playing football in front of his home with ten other boys. A
U.S. bomb suddenly exploded throwing him several feet into the air. He said,
"I heard a boom and went unconscious." The large blast created a thick dust
cloud that hid dozens of wounded, said his father, Ghulam Gilani, 40. "It
took a while to find him because he wasn’t crying out like the others and he
was buried in sand. I thought he must be dead." Mr. Gilani carried his son to
a local hospital which could do nothing. So he took his son to Quetta without
anesthetic. "He cried all the way."
"precision" bomb hits children playing in a neighborhood
In memory of
Nurgessa Gul’s husband
Nurgessa Gul’s 2 sons
October 18, 2001
neighborhood of Kandahar. U.S warplanes bombed and strafed Kandahar
relentlessly during the week of October 15th. A projectile hit the Gul home,
killing Nurgessa Gul’s husband, Agha Gul, and her two sons. Residents of
Kandahar walk around rubble in a street after a U.S. "precision" raid on
Friday, October 19, 2001 (Al Jazeera photo reproduced by Reuters). Abdul
Rahim, 45, resident of Kandahar was injured on Friday night in the U.S.
airstrike. His relatives brought him to a hospital in Quetta for treatment
(photo available by Arshad Butt, A.P.).
"precision" strikes in Kandahar
In a widely reported
attack, U.S. planes fired upon a moving vehicle at night outside the Kandahar
offices of CNN-Al Jazeera, damaging the office heavily but killing no one as
the employees had sought cover outside from the on-going attacks. Al Jazeera's Youssef Al-Shouli who arrived
in Kandahar late Wednesday night said he knew of three government buildings,
including the road maintenance department building, that were hit. In the evening, he reported,
is very great tension in Kandahar, which was the target of four raids in 30
fierce bombing of Kandahar, led 3'500 panicked Afghan refugees to pour across
the Chaman border on the following day of October 19th, the largest
daily influx since the U.S. bombing began.
Catherine Philp of The Times reported from the Chaman border crossing on
the utter fear caused in Kandahar by the low-flying AC-130 gunship which had
been strafing the city with machinegun and cannon fire.
Before there were breaks in the bombing, but now it is all the
time, it hardly stops," sobbed Hamida Ahmad, 26, as she pushed her two young
sons past the border guards. After a night crouching in the dark, they had set
off with other family members for the border. "When we left our house in the
morning, the raids were still going on. The children started screaming as soon
as we stepped out of the house and saw the planes over us in the sky…
That fear only intensified when most of the remaining
Taliban fighters, mainly Arabs from the 55 Brigade, moved into civilian
buildings around the city to avoid strikes on their quarters. Mr Ullah gave in
to his wife’s pleading to move the family to Pakistan. "The Americans have to be
very careful if they want people to believe it is only the Taleban they are
trying to destroy," Mr Ullah said.
Taliban officials reported
that at least 12 people were killed and 20 injured during the day of air
strikes upon Kandahar.
The Pentagon and U.S. State
Department sought quite successfully to disappear Afghan civilian casualties.
Flying over 15,000 feet high, U.S. pilots were (are) oblivious to such
disturbing detail. On the ground, a young man in Kaul said to an Al-Jazeera
reporter, pointing to his grandmother's foot, which he had just removed from
under the rubble in Qalaye-Zaman,
planes drop leaflets assuring us and saying America is helping us, and then we
Abdullah, 27, added,
is inhuman and unjust. Those people who did this will suffer a worse
 "US Uses Unmanned Spy Plane on
Afghan," Agence France-Presse [October 19, 2001 at 00:56 IST]
 "Bush Signals Switch to Ground
Assault: Civilian Toll Mounts," Dawn [October 19, 2001]
 "List of incidents where US bombs have
struck non-military targets," Agence France Presse (October 28, 2001)
 "Fire blazes in
Kabul as US jets launch fresh bombing runs," Agence France Presse
(October 18, 2001)
 "At least six dead
as US bombs fit Afghan homes: Witnesses," Agence France Presse (October
 "Seven Killed as US jets hit arms dump," Evening
Times (Glasgow) (October 18, 2001)
 "US Broadens Attack Eyeing Fall of
Mazar. More Civilians Killed in Fresh Attacks," The News.Jang
[October 18, 2001]
"U.S. Targets Taliban Troops,
Barracks," CNN.com [October
17, 2001 at 9:03 PM EDT]
 see Agence France-Presse, "6 Civilians Dead as US Bombs Hit
Afghan Homes," Times of India [October 19, 2001]
 "Taliban Air Defenses Turn Silent
Under Assault," Agence France-Presse (October 19, 2001 at 16:39 IST)
 "US Cruise Missiles Hit Kandahar:
Al-Jazeera," Agence France-Presse (October 19, 2001 at 02:18 IST)
 "Panic-Struck Afghans Cross into Pak
in Hordes," Agence France-Presse (October 19, 2001 at 15:27 IST)
 Kathy Gannon and Amir Shah, "U.S.
Airstrikes Pound Afghanistan," Associated Press (October 18, 2001)
 "Civilian Casualties of U.S. Bombs in
Afghanistan Continue to Rise," IslamOnline.net (October 18, 2001)