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Sunday, 7 October, 2001, 20:05 GMT 21:05 UK
Tackling the Taleban
By BBC World Affairs editor John Simpson in north Afghanistan

The purpose of these strikes is presumably to destroy the Taleban as a government much as in the Gulf War the coalition forces tried to destroy Saddam Hussein's basic control.

But that is going to be more difficult in this case, because the Taleban's control is so slight and the system so primitive it is actually quite hard to hit it from the outside in the way you might attack a more sophisticated country.

This is not a government in the sense you and I would know it and it must be very difficult for the targeters to have worked out the right places to hit.

Kabul skyline
Finding targets in Kabul could be difficult
On the question of whether these strikes will lead to Osama Bin Laden being handed over, the Taleban has said it will definitely not do so now.

But I am not absolutely certain they have control over him. It is perfectly possible Bin Laden has withdrawn to some vastness of his own with his own guards protecting him.

If America plans to hunt him down cave to cave, mountainside to mountainside then they have an impossible job.

But there is a different scenario: if the Taleban system were overthrown completely and the Northern Alliance did sweep into power quickly then Bin Laden would be very much on his own.

Every man's hand would be turned against him. The thought of those millions and millions of dollars worth of reward would no doubt appeal to a great many people.

'Fair weather friends'

As for the Taleban, it is not much of an adversary to be honest. You have to remember, whatever the size of their army - and we hear conflicting stories - most of the personnel are supplied by allies of the Taleban.

These are people who supported the Taleban simply because they thought in 1996 that the Taleban had the power to take over most of the country. But these are fair-weather friends, and most of them will be thinking this is a battle they cannot win.

The Taleban themselves were a pretty feeble group of fighters.

The Taleban have not been involved at all in the most effective arm of these people, terrorism.

The terrorist attacks have been planned with great care and intelligence, and of course they have been hugely successful, we have seen that.

But we are not talking here about some international Taleban striking capability. They simply do not have that.

But Bin Laden's supporters in the US and other countries do have that capability and must have been thinking about this situation.

The BBC's John Simpson
reports from Afghanistan
See also:

07 Oct 01 | South Asia
US begins military strike
07 Oct 01 | Americas
Timeline: Afghanistan air strikes
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