USE OF EXCESSIVE FORCE
On 8 October 2001, US-led Coalition forces started an intense aerial bombardment campaign under the banner of “Operation Enduring Freedom”. US warplanes and cruise missiles targeted key Taliban and Al Qaeda sites in Afghanistan. Clandestine teams of US Army Special Forces and CIA operatives were sent in to support the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance as they advanced on Kabul.
Following is the list of top US weapons used routinely during aerial bombardment in Afghanistan against a rag-tag militia that had nothing more than Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG-7), anti-tank missiles, AK-47 and other insignificant weapons:
Tomahawk Cruise Missile
Manufactured by Raytheon – a Massachusett-based defence contractor that employs 72,000 people and stands as the 5th largest military contractor in the world – cruise missile is a long-range, jet-powered projectile launched from navy ships and submarines. The missile uses global positioning system (GPS) technology and computer mapping programmes to hit its target. It costs $600,000 each and weighs around 1,350kg. Cruise missiles have a range of around 1,600km and travels at around 885kmph.
Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM)
Boeing manufactures a special kit that fits on the tail of a conventional 450kg or 900kg bomb, which is guided by GPS. The system is capable to hit targets with precision despite bad weather or longer distances. When attached to a bomb or a missile it covers a range of 25km. It costs the US Army about $21,000 per kit.
Cluster bombs or munitions are weapons that on impact disperse several hundred smaller munitions – also known as bomblets – over areas the size of three football pitches. The US military refers to it as “firecrackers” or “popcorns” as they cause many small explosions in the target area. According to Stop Cluster Munition Coalition, US dropped at least 1,228 cluster bombs containing 248,056 bomblets during its 2001- 2002 bombing campaign in Afghanistan. The estimated cost of each cluster munition unit is around $15,000.
Manufactured by Boeing, the warplane is a long-range bomber that can fly round-the-world bombing missions. It was initially built to carry nuclear bombs but the US military now uses it to unleash conventional bombs. A four-member crew (aircraft commander, pilot, offensive weapons officer and defensive weapons officer) fly the bomber at a speed of more than 1450kmph and carry up to 80 conventional bombs, 30 cluster bombs and 24 guided “smart” bombs. It costs the US Air Force around $200m for every B-1B Lancer aircraft.
Also known as the stealth bomber, the Northrop Grumman’s B-2 sports a unique wing shape, and is manufactured with special materials that are designed to make it difficult for enemy radar to track. This lethal flying machine is capable of covering high subsonic speeds of around 1200kmph. B-2’s crew of pilot and mission commander carries around 18,000kg of bombs and operates within a range of 11,675km. The USAF buys the warplane from Northrop Grumman at an estimated cost of about $1.3bn.
The B-52 is known as the US Air Force’s workhorse bomber. Manufactured by Boeing and deployed back in 1955, the warplane is able to drop or fire a wide variety of bombs and missiles up to 31,500kg and can fly 14,000kms without refueling. Thanks to its airborne refueling, the bomber can fly around the world with a speed of 1050kmph. The estimated cost of the American bomber is around $74m.
After having a look at the above-mentioned weapons and latest warfare equipment, it is easy to understand why the results of the US aerial bombing campaign were swift and decisive, besides being extremely lethal.
Afghan Taliban militia collapsed and seemingly vanished within weeks. The US special and regular forces arrived on Afghan soil to take control of all strategic assets of the country. On the other hand, CIA forces entered Afghanistan to direct anti-Taliban forces, including the Northern Alliance, and to provide assistance to covert US Army and Air Force units to transport equipment into the country.