WASHINGTON – Sunday night's attacks on Afghanistan successfully hit the Taliban "in many respects," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told The Associated Press Monday. The assualt targeted two to three dozen sites, including terrorist training camps, military airfields and aircraft, air defense radars and surface-to-air missile sites.
President Bush said Monday that the opening round of attacks against terrorist targets in Afghanistan was "executed as planned." He also once again vowed to "bring evildoers to justice."
Rumsfeld said all planes returned safely to their far-flung bases after the military action, which was designed to eradicate terrorist operations and bring justice to those responsible for the deadly Sept. 11 attacks.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer made clear the campaign was not aimed solely at suspected terror mastermind Usama bin Laden. "This is not about any one person," he said. "If Usama bin Laden was gone today, the war would continue."
In London, British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said 30 sites had been targeted in Sunday's opening wave of attacks, including the military infrastructure of the Taliban regime that holds power in Afghanistan and the bases of bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terror network.
Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, chief of the British defense staff, said some of the camps may have been empty. Still, he said, "There is certainly merit in denying those camps' further use. And that is what we have done."
Rumsfeld, interviewed on CNN, said the results of the first night of bombing would be known later in the day as "all of the various types of intelligence are examined and correlated."
About 20 people on the ground were killed, according to Mullah Abdul Zaeef, the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, and al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based Arabic satellite television news channel. The U.S. and Britain disputed those figures.
"Every single target which the coalition forces hit was a military target," Rumsfeld retorted Monday morning. "[This action is] not against Afghanistan, the Afghan people, any race or religion. ... We have no interest in [Afghanistan] other than to end the terrorism."
The Taliban said that Mullah Mohammed Omar, the one-eyed cleric who leads the Taliban, and his guest and in-law bin Laden had both escaped the bombings unscathed.
Smoke was seen billowing from Omar's headquarters in the city of Kandahar, witness said, although Zaeef said the leader's house was not hit. Explosions were also reported near the cities of Jalalabad, Khost and Mazar-e-Sharif; at bin Laden's training camps; and in Kabul, the Afghan capital.
"The battle is now joined on many fronts," President Bush said in a live television address to the nation Sunday afternoon. "We will not waver, we will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail."
Although officials stressed for weeks that conventional warfare will be only one element of the anti-terror campaign, and probably not the main element, the opening act came with the familiar thunder of falling munitions.
In all, Afghan targets were pounded by 15 land-based bombers, including B-2 Stealths that flew round-trip from Missouri, and 50 U.S. and British cruise missiles fired from surface ships and submarines in the Arabian sea, said Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
They were supported by 25 other strike aircraft flying from carrier battle groups. One B-52 in the raid had its nose section repainted with the legend, "NYPD, we remember," in honor of the New York Police Department, one pilot said.
Bush said he had not expected instant success in attacking bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network and the Taliban military.
"Initially, the terrorists may burrow deeper into caves and other entrenched hiding places," he told the nation from the White House Treaty Room in announcing the air strikes.
"Our military action is also designed to clear the way for sustained, comprehensive and relentless operations to drive them out and bring them to justice."
In London, Prime Minister Tony Blair explained why the Taliban's military capabilities were included as targets of the assault.
"They were given the choice of siding with justice or siding with terror," he said. "They chose to side with terror."
Bush said the operation was undertaken with the cooperation of more than 40 countries that offered landing rights, the use of air space or other assistance. "We are supported by the collective will of the world," he said.
But the number of nations pledging to contribute forces was much smaller — Bush identified Canada, Germany, France and Australia as countries that will join the United States and Britain in the direct military effort.
The strikes struck a supportive chord in Russia, an important backer of the U.S.-led campaign. Bush had called Russian President Vladimir Putin before the attack. Bush and his top officials called more than a dozen leaders to spread the word of the action the president secretly set in motion Saturday night.
Also Monday, Bush installed former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge as head of a new Office of Homeland Security. "America is going to be prepared," Bush pledged.
"I know that many Americans at this time have fears. We've learned that America is not immune from attack. We've seen that evil is real," Bush said at an East Room ceremony for Ridge. "They've roused a mighty giant."
Ridge, who had already taken a West Wing office and a seat in Bush's Monday morning FBI briefing, was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. As if to underscore the real threat of additional attack, original plans for Vice President Dick Cheney to give Ridge the oath of office were scrapped so that Cheney could remain at an undisclosed location.
As the nation went to battle, the administration sought to heighten Americans' awareness of possible terrorist retaliation, without alarming them. "The American people need to be alert — threats do remain," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said. "This is a war."
Airports, sports stadiums, state capitols and office buildings heightened security precautions that had already been elevated since Sept. 11.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.