The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times lead with developments on the fourth day of the Afghanistan bombing. Now that air supremacy has been attained, aircraft are targeting Taliban ground forces. The USA Today lead deals with the third case of anthrax found in an employee of a Florida media group. Of the 1,000 employees, one woman tested positive for anthrax cultures, though officials are still awaiting results for 300 nasal swabs.
"There are three basic questions that we as criminal investigators want to answer," says Guy Lewis, acting U.S. attorney for South Florida. "First, how and when was the bacteria entered into the building? Second, by whom? Thirdly, why?" Officials stress that a link to the events of 9/11 has not been established. Even so, the U.S. State Department has instructed its embassies to stock up on the antibiotic ciprofloxacin in case of anthrax attacks.
The other leads, which mention the new anthrax case, vary slightly in their coverage of the air campaign. The WP and LAT go high with news that Pakistan has given the U.S. permission to use two airfields, one commercial, the other military. Rescue teams and Special Forces have already been cleared to operate from the bases. It's expected that larger ground forces will soon be approved, according to Pakistani officials. "They seem to be preparing for low-flying operations, perhaps for reconnaissance purposes," suggests an LAT source. Pakistani troops are guarding both airports to protect American forces from a divided and potentially hostile Pakistani public.
The NYT gives us a more in-depth look at the strategy behind the present attacks. Missions are shifting away from bombing targets like radio towers and are now pummeling Taliban troops with anti-personnel cluster bombs. On Day 4, "the prime focus was garrisons, bivouac areas, maintenance sites, troop-type facilities," a Defense Department official says. Still, according to the Post, the Northern Alliance expected a stronger showing of U.S. air power. The NYT also reports that the Pentagon has acknowledged that an American cruise missile may have been responsible for killing four security guards at a U.N.-affiliated organization in Kabul.
In minor coverage discrepancy, the WP reports B-2 bombers flew 44-hour missions from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. But the NYT claims, "B-2 bombers, which carry satellite-guided munitions designed to go after fixed targets, were not scheduled to be used."
As the bombing continues, the media has agreed to help with anti-terrorism measures at home. The White House has dissuaded the top five news organizations from replaying tapes from Bin Laden's organization to prevent any coded messages from reaching his minions. The papers also report on Bush's announcement of 22 "most wanted" international terrorists, offering multimillion-dollar rewards for Bin Laden and his top lieutenants.
In addition, Bush met with NATO Secretary-General George Robertson at the White House and thanked him for providing five NATO-owned AWACS surveillance aircraft, which provided support for the U.S.-led campaign. U.S. officials have been working with NATO on redeploying American troops stationed in the Balkans for a potential ground war in Afghanistan, reports the Post. But this may offend European allies and jeopardize the Balkan mission: "What I don't want it to look like, is first of all the United States getting out of the Balkans," Robertson tells the Post.
The top Wall Street Journal world news story says that the Northern Alliance is preparing for an offensive against the Taliban. While the opposition group still lacks the arms to mount a full-scale assault, analysts hope that an attack will motivate southerners to take up arms against the Taliban. Still, U.S. officials are publicly worried about providing direct support to any one faction, which may also offend Pakistan. The story says that the much-needed arms will come from Russia, but shipping and handling, as well as the weaponry itself, will be paid for by the U.S. and other countries opposed to the Taliban.
The Post fronter on the rebels tells a different story: The guerrilla commanders have agreed to delay an assault on Kabul after U.S. and international officials expressed concern about who would govern the country in the aftermath. Both articles agree that the crux of the problem is cobbling together a government that is representative of Afghanistan's patchwork of tribes and ethnic groups. "For us to be perceived as supporting only the Northern Alliance wouldn't be smart," the WP quotes a defense official.
The LAT fronts a story on the "surge" of CIA operatives in central Asia. Backed by a virtual blank check, the agency is calling agents out of retirement as it sets about the task of gathering intelligence and, hopefully, netting Osama Bin Laden. As for that cumbersome no-assassination policy, the agency may turn a blind eye: "I'm sure if someone were to deliver to us evidence of his timely demise, we'd find a way to demonstrate our gratitude," says one official.
In non-Afghanistan coverage, the Post fronts the Democrats' election of Rep. Nancy Pelosi as the new House minority whip. By defeating Maryland's Rep. Steny Hoyer118-95, the California Democrat became the highest-ranking woman in congressional history. She replaces Rep. David Bonoir, who is leaving the House to run for governor in his home state of Michigan.