U.S. Air Strikes Will Run Around the Clock

The United States hit Afghanistan with a third day of airstrikes, crushing Taliban air defenses, radars and airports to the extent that American warplanes can fly virtually unchallenged night and day, the Pentagon said today. "The skies are now free," President Bush said.

The administration pushed for the surrender of Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and the ouster of the Taliban regime that shelters him. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld urged Afghan dissidents to "heave the Al-Qaida and the Taliban leadership ... out of the country."

In the skies over Afghanistan, U.S. bombs streaked day and night toward sites connected with the ruling Taliban. Sources inside the Taliban said bombs struck around Kandahar, the militia's headquarters, and the northwest city of Herat. Anti-aircraft fire and the roar of jets rattled the capital, Kabul.

Rumsfeld declined to identify the targets of today's assaults, but said meager Taliban defenses were in shambles. Bush called the mission a success so far.

"We believe we are now able to carry out strikes more or less around the clock as we wish," Rumsfeld said at the Pentagon.

Rumsfeld said, however, some risk remains to coalition pilots from helicopters, a small number of fighter jets and surface-to-air missiles.

Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers opened their news conference with before-and-after pictures of Taliban targets. Each grainy aerial shot of a terrorist camp or military site was followed by second -- the target now cratered or smoke-streaked.

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