WWT: World War On Terrorism, Part IV
Posted February 27, 2002 10:30 a.m. EST
PINEHURST, N.C. — While the global threat of terrorism remains pervasive around the world, there appears to be a "return to normal" in much of our daily activities. Most of us seem to once again be enjoying our freedoms as Americans. This is good.
Less than six months after the horrific moments of Sept. 11, we are routinely attending to our businesses and occupations, recreating with our families and friends, proudly watching Americans have their best ever winter Olympics, worshipping as we choose, flying to our business or vacation destinations ... simply returning to normal. This is both good and bad.
Returning to normal is good because we Americans respect our freedoms and our way of life. No terrorist act should deprive us of this opportunity and privilege granted to every American.
Of course, normalcy also has a downside. As I have remarked in the past, America will never be the same following the 9/11 terrorist acts. We must continue to be vigilant, maybe even suspicious of things happening around us. The terrorists have not been defeated in Afghanistan. Rather, they have been merely inconvenienced by being denied a terrorist base from which to operate freely.
There have been some stunning successes in this world war on terrorism. In only a few months the Taliban was toppled, hundreds of al-Qaida members killed, captured, or forced into hiding, and Osama bin Laden has also been forced into hiding. He no longer enjoys the privilege of operating and communicating with his lieutenants freely.
The "stunning successes" in Afghanistan are directly related to the quality of your American armed forces, their high-tech weapons and their incredible ingenuity.
We had sergeants on horseback with satellite-supported laptops on their mount directing airstrikes against the Taliban and al-Qaida targets. Who would have thought we would have special operations forces requesting an air drop of leather saddles (Afghan saddles are wooden), oats for their horses, and yes, some Vaseline for the troops? They were not used to saddle sores. After all this
the 21st century.
This is the most precise war America has ever fought. Over 18,000 weapons (bombs and missiles) were used and 10,000 of those were precision-guided munitions. By using Global Positioning System (GPS) and laser technology the weapons could strike with incredible accuracy.
Air supremacy over Afghanistan was achieved within days of the Oct. 7 initial strikes. Of course, there was not a very sophisticated air defense system to destroy. As a consequence, we had B-1 and B-52 bombers providing Close Air Support from 35,000 feet. This is unheard of in past conflicts.
Close Air Support means just that ... close! It is used to support troops in contact with an enemy that may only be a hundred or so yards away. Typically, there would be small agile fighter jets coming in low in support of these troops in contact. However, with the United States' arsenal of smart bombs, the bombers can stay above the fray and still deliver lethality with precision, striking within feet of the designated target.
The USAF flew lengthy bomber missions from bases some 2,500 miles distant from Afghanistan. In one case a crew flew a mission of over 44 hours before returning to home base. Several air-to-air refuelings and a long loiter time over the target area became common for these crews. The B-1s and B-52s with their large bomb carrying capability have dropped over 75 percent of the bombs dropped in Afghanistan.
The fighter pilots have had some firsts as well. One fighter combat mission was over 15 hours in duration. Try to imagine sitting in the tightly confined cockpit (or even a sleek sports car) strapped into a G-suit, wearing an oxygen mask and helmet, do several air-to-air refuelings, lack creature comforts for relief (no highway rest areas here), and still strike your targets with precision. We should be very proud of our American military men and women.
But it is not all about striking targets. Air Force civil engineers have poured over 190,000 cubic yards of ramp space in nine different countries to prepare the existing airfields for use in the global war on terrorism.
We have airdropped over 150 million leaflets and over 2.5 million humanitarian daily rations. Further, some 800 tons of wheat and 50,000 blankets have been delivered mostly by air.
Special operations forces continue their covert and clandestine activities throughout Afghanistan and other parts of the world.
Back here in America, there have been over 15,000 sorties flown in support of Noble Eagle. These combat air patrol missions are flown over major cities, such as Washington, D.C. and New York, and also over major events such as the Super Bowl and the Olympics. Over 15,000 missions without one accident, one incident, one FAA complaint! Eighty-percent of these sorties are flown by your National Guard and Reserve forces. They too deserve our pride, our respect and our support.
Across the globe, intelligence gathering activities and alert citizens have foiled other terrorist activities. A deadly attack on U.S. and other interests in Singapore was prevented by intelligence garnered from a cave in Afghanistan. Italian police reportedly uncovered a threat to the United States Embassy in Rome. An alert group of crew members and passengers prevented the "shoe bomber" from another potential tragedy.
We all have a responsibility in the war on terror. We should all remain vigilant. The lack of news about military activities in Afghanistan should not lull us into a sense of complacency. Much remains to be done.