Ground Troops Set to Move into Action Afghanistan ; Blair Warns That Military Campaign Is about to Enter `Most Testing Time'
Sengupta, Kim, The Independent (London, England)
AMERICAN AND British troops are preparing to move into action in Afghanistan after the clearest signals so far from George Bush and Tony Blair that a ground war is not only inevitable but imminent.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister warned that the campaign against terrorism was about to enter the "most testing time". His words followed President Bush's statement that the air strikes were to clear the way for "friendly ground troops" to enter the capital, Kabul.
American special forces are on board the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk in the Gulf. The carrier has been stripped of its complement of fixed-wing aircraft to carry marines and special forces and the helicopters needed to take them into Afghanistan. British special forces have been in training in the Indian Ocean base of Diego Garcia, where they will be joined by Australian SAS in the next 48 hours.
Meanwhile the anthrax outbreak in the US has spread farther. A British assistant to the US news presenter Dan Rather has been infected by the potentially lethal bacteria, bringing the number of people who have tested positive to six.
Claire Fletcher, a 27-year-old Oxford University graduate, underwent a biopsy two days ago and is expected to make a full recovery.
Mr Rather said he and other staff at CBS - the third television network to be exposed to the disease - were adamant that they would not be cowed by the latest incident. He said: "Our biggest problem is not anthrax, it is fear. Those who are most frightened are in the most danger."
The first case outside the United States was confirmed in Kenya, where powder in a letter sent from Atlanta, Georgia, to an expatriate American businessman tested positive.
In Downing Street, a sombre Mr Blair told Arab journalists: "This is a testing time. In fact, I believe that the next few weeks will be the most testing time, but we are on track to achieve the goals we set out.
"I don't think we have ever contemplated this being done by air power alone. We have always said that there would be different phases to this operation. What is unfolding is exactly what has been planned."
In the initial stages, ground action would consist mainly …
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Publication information: Article title: Ground Troops Set to Move into Action Afghanistan ; Blair Warns That Military Campaign Is about to Enter `Most Testing Time'. Contributors: Sengupta, Kim - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: October 19, 2001. Page number: 1. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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