British leader calls campaign successful

Tuesday, January 8, 2002

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair and nine U.S. senators swept into this former Soviet airbase north of Kabul on Monday and promised Afghan leaders their full support in rebuilding the shattered country.

Blair, in an unannounced midnight visit to this base 30 miles from the capital, also praised the U.S.-led alliance for crushing the terrorist regime in Afghanistan.

The British leader said the international community turned its back on Afghan-istan after the Soviets withdrew in 1989, and the country fell into the hands of the repressive Taliban regime.

The Afghan people "have suffered a very great deal in the past 20 years. But we do desire to be the partners of people here," Blair said. "The world is not going to walk away."

In an overlapping stop at the airbase, Sen. Joseph Lieberman also said the West would not turn its back on the country.

"I think we learned at a very high and painful price the cost of a lack of involvement in Central Asia on September 11th -- and we're not going to let it happen again," said the Connecticut Democrat.

'We're finding stuff'

In mountainous eastern Afghanistan, U.S. bombers attacked a large cache of Taliban and al-Qaida tanks and weapons as part of the effort to eradicate the remnants of the terrorist network.

"It's an ongoing operation," Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem said of the strikes on the military compound and cave complex in eastern Afghan-istan. "We're finding stuff, and we're attacking that stuff."

U.S. officials said warplanes have conducted three strikes in recent days at the site, where terrorist leader Osama bin Laden's followers have been regrouping.

Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said American aircraft flew 118 sorties and conducted four air-strikes in the Zawar Kili and Khost area Sunday. The strikes were carried out by long-range B-52 and B-1 bombers, as well as carrier-based strike planes from warships in the Indian Ocean, officials said.

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