Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hoon: We Are Looking Next at Plans for Ground Assault

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hoon: We Are Looking Next at Plans for Ground Assault

Article excerpt

Byline: ROBERT FOX;HUGH MUIR;PETER ALMOND

ALLIED forces are considering the use of ground troops as the next phase of their battle against terrorism and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.

While the operation will concentrate in the next few days on aerial bombardment and sea-launched cruise missiles, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon today gave a clear hint that the use of ground forces was being planned in detail.

Previously it was thought the Allies would rely on air attacks and teams of special forces.

Today it emerged that the Allies struck at 30 targets overnight- including Taliban airfields, garrisons, air defence sites and Bin Laden's notorious training camps.

Three British submarines, HMS Superb, Trafalgar and Triumph, were involved in the operation. One of them, believed to be Trafalgar, fired Tomahawk cruise missiles at an identified terrorist site. Mr Hoon said the bombing was carefully and successfully targeted at military targets and away from civilian areas.

Mr Hoon also justified the bombings by pointing to the United Nations Charter, specifically Article 51 - which relates to nation states that have been attacked.

He said: "Under the United Nations Charter, any state is entitled in self defence to protect its citizens.

"These attacks are designed to protect citizens of Britain, the US and the wider world who are threatened by the activities of Bin Laden and his associates, and those who support them in the Taliban regime."

Twenty three of the targets were in remote areas, he said.

But the prospect of the campaign being extended to include ground troops was today's most startling development. Mr Hoon said: "We will make a final judgment about this when the time comes."

Reports from the US suggest that Central Command, based in Tampa, Florida, has been considering "quite a serious ground commitment" for more than a fortnight. …

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