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by Rory McCarthy
Saturday, Oct. 20, 2001 at 9:23 AM
Gosh, the bombing of the WTC made me teary eyed as well, but no one ever called me "over emotional'. I guess emotions only get in the way when you are grieving over the wrong deaths.
Rory McCarthy in Islamabad, Patrick Wintour and Richard Norton-Taylor
Friday October 19, 2001 - The Guardian
Clare Short, the international development secretary, last night
provoked a furious reaction from aid agencies when she
dismissed their calls for a halt to the bombing of Taliban areas of
Afghanistan as unreal and emotional.
Insisting that the only solution to the unfolding humanitarian
crisis was to drive the Taliban from power, Ms Short said that
any pause in the bombing would play straight into the hands of
the hardline Islamist regime and its guest, Osama bin Laden.
"It is not a real alternative, it is emotional. It's emotion among
people in London, in Birmingham, in Islamabad," she told the
Aid agencies operating in Afghanistan, where more than 7m
people face starvation with winter fast approaching, immediately
condemned her comments.
"The fact is that our staff in Afghanistan have not received any
food in the most critical areas. Halting the bombing is the only
way we are going to feed people," said Sam Barrett, a
spokesman for Oxfam in Islamabad.
Ms Short's dismissal of the stop-the-bombing lobby was echoed
by Tony Blair, who made clear that far from being suspended,
the war was about to enter its most intense stage. The prime
minister gave his firmest indication yet that ground operations
"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 there would be different
phases to this operation".
As pressure builds on Washington and London for a halt in the
war, now entering its 13th day, both military planners and
political leaders are aware that they need to shift perceptions
soon or risk losing the backing of the fragile international
coalition backing the campaign.
British government sources warned last night that the US had
just a few weeks - before the onset of winter and the start of
Ramadan on November 17 - to complete the first phase of the
war and set up a robust aid distribution programme.
"We all agree that the shorter the agony lasts, the better it will
be," a minister said.
It is now clear that military and humanitarian objectives are likely
to be umbilically linked in any ground operation. Political and
military strategists, accepting that the Taliban regime is unlikely
to collapse in one fell swoop, is likely to be defeated piecemeal.
Ms Short said the Taliban would not be unseated easily.
Instead, the focus of the next stage of the war would be to build
humanitarian corridors inside Afghanistan which would be
expanded gradually as the regime was pushed back.
"I imagine a set of virtuous dominoes," she said. "Area after area
where it becomes safe to move, international staff return, the
humanitarian operation becomes more successful and then
ideally with a new Afghan government whose authority is
extended bit by bit."
In a compelling warning of the scale of the tragedy that possibly
lies ahead - and of the race against time now facing the US-led
coalition - Christian Aid last night said that at least 600 people
had already died of starvation and malnutrition in one district in
the remote mountains of northern Afghanistan two months ago.
Only a fraction of the food needed inside the country was
arriving, the British aid agency said.
Aid workers have warned that millions of deaths from hunger
this winter are now a virtual certainty.
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