The U.S. Retaliates -- The World Responds

After weeks of warnings, the United States and Great Britain retaliated against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban and Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network. Starting immediately after the first missiles crashed into targets in Afghanistan Sunday, the world community began to respond -- in some expected and some unexpected ways. As the military campaign continues, the United States must be mindful of the consequences in Afghanistan and elsewhere. What follows is a select survey of the initial international response.



The Leaders: Afghanistan's ruling Taliban responded to U.S. military actions with anger, calling them "horrendous terrorist attacks." Taliban Ambassador Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef painted the actions as strikes against the whole Islamic world. "If the U.S. thinks that it will get results and fruit from the attacks," Zaeef added, "this is a wrong assumption and it will be unsuccessful." Zaeef further warned, "We will fight to the last breath." According to Reuters, Taliban spokesman Mullah Amir Khan Muttaqi echoed Zaeef, proclaiming, "We have decided to forcefully resist the American-British attacks." Meanwhile, the Afghan News Network reports that the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance -- which hopes to topple the Taliban -- was optimistic about U.S.-British attacks. A Northern Alliance commanding officer said, "It is now our turn to begin advancing to Kabul."

The Press: The English language Afghan News Network -- published by American citizens from sources around the world -- focuses on reports of casualties and infrastructure damage in Afghanistan. According to early accounts, the first round of attacks killed 20 people in Kabul and damaged some residential areas.

The People: Thousands of residents of Kabul, Afghanistan, fled the city, according to Reuters. Of those interviewed, all were very critical of U.S. actions, charging that Afghanis cannot take any more suffering.


The Leaders: Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf reiterated his strong support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism after the first attacks Sunday, arguing, "We tried our utmost, but unfortunately it was not possible to prevent the conclusion that happened last night." He added, "We need to plan a major rehabilitation effort as fast as possible to bring normalcy into the life of the people of Afghanistan."

The Press: Dawn, Pakistan's largest newspaper, editorializes in support of the military actions in Afghanistan -- so long as they are short and only hit military targets. The Web site HiPakistan reports that Pakistanis oppose the idea of the Afghan king Zahir Shah -- now living in Rome -- playing any role in the future of Afghanistan because of his anti-Pakistan views. Additionally, the Pakistani press focuses on the effect U.S. actions might have on the conflict between Pakistan and India over the Kashmir region, reporting that so far, the U.S. and its ally, Great Britain, have not turned their attention to the Kashmir conflict.

The People: Pro-Taliban Pakistanis staged violent protests in response to U.S. actions, burning buildings -- including a United Nations office -- and fighting with the police. Many chanted, "Bush is a terrorist," and "[Pakistani President] Musharraf is a dog." At least one person died and 26 were injured in the protests. In a second day of rallies near the border with Afghanistan, three were killed, two injured, and 37 arrested as anti-U.S. protesters clashed with police.


The Leaders: After Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon harshly warned the United States last week not to appease the Arabs, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres called Bush's decision to strike targets in Afghanistan "brave" and promised Israelis were praying for American soldiers. When President Bush called to notify Sharon of the upcoming military action, Sharon offered Israel's continued assistance, according to Israel Insider.

The Press: In Israel Insider, writer Mitchell G. Bard slams the U.S. for putting Israelis at risk of terrorism by attacking Afghanistan while insisting that Israel refrain from similar attacks on Palestinian targets, a sentiment shared by other writers. Writes the Jerusalem Post, "A war against terror and the countries that sponsor it cannot ignore the war of terrorism that Palestinian groups, backed by a number of Arab states and the Palestinian Authority, have launched against Israel over this past year." The Israeli press also reports on the fear that Saddam Hussein will launch missile attacks on Israel if the United States targets Iraq in its war on terrorism.

The People: Concerned about attacks on Israel in response to the U.S. war on terrorism, thousands of Israelis have been visiting gas mask distribution centers, according to Israel Insider.

The Occupied Territories

The Leaders: Palestinian leadership continued to distance itself from Osama bin Laden after the first U.S.-led attacks Sunday, reports the Associated Press. In fact, Palestinian police fired upon Palestinian student marchers who were protesting U.S. actions in Afghanistan. Responding to Osama bin Laden's statement that "neither America nor the people who live in it will dream of security before we live it in Palestine," Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said, "We don't want crimes committed in the name of Palestine." Two marchers were killed and at least 45 injured in the showdown. However, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat reportedly issued an order prohibiting members of the Palestinian Authority establishment from commenting on the military actions.

The Press: The Palestinian paper Al-Quds condemns U.S. actions in Afghanistan, charging, "What is happening today in Afghanistan reminds us of the tragedy inflicted on the Iraqi people, which still suffers from an unfair embargo that the United States and Britain persist in maintaining."

The People: More than 1,000 students held an anti-U.S. march Monday, according to the Associated Press, many carrying pictures of Bin Laden and shouting, "Long live Palestine, long live Afghanistan, long live Islam." Protests ended in violent clashes with the police.


The Leaders: Egyptian leaders expressed subdued support for the U.S. after military actions began Sunday. An aide to President Hosni Mubarak said Egypt recognizes the United States's right to retaliate "if it has conclusive evidence" against Bin Laden and the Taliban, but said that Egypt is worried about the suffering of the Afghan people.

The Press: Egypt Daily focuses on connections between Egyptians and Osama bin Laden. For example, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahri, a close deputy of Bin Laden's, is "believed to be the operational mastermind behind the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon," according to Egypt Daily.

The People: About 10,000 students at various universities in Egypt rallied against the United States, some students calling for Muslim holy war. Unlike some other protests in the Middle East, there were no casualties immediately reported.

Saudi Arabia

The Leaders: Saudi Arabian leaders made no official statements about military actions in Afghanistan, according to Reuters.

The Press: Saudi Arabia's al-Watan argues the war on terrorism must apply to Israel.

The People: The majority of people interviewed in Saudi Arabia were critical of U.S. actions in Afghanistan and skeptical of their likelihood of success without unintended casualties, according to Arab News.


The Leaders: The Iranian government condemned U.S. actions. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told clerics in Tehran, "We condemn the attack on the country and the people of Afghanistan." The congregation responded, "Death to America! Death to Israel!" Similarly, Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi charged that the military actions "will not eliminate terrorism, but, on the contrary, it could expand (it) further."

The Press: Iranian press has taken no strong positions on recent events; instead it reports on the details of the U.S. attacks and on the response from Iranian leadership.

The People: Iranians interviewed after U.S. attacks on targets in Afghanistan expressed concern about the effects the strikes will have on their country. They worried that a new flood of refugees from Afghanistan could damage the Iranian economy. Though many did not support the Taliban, they were concerned about who would rule Afghanistan if the Taliban is overthrown.


The Leaders: Iraqi President Saddam Hussein excoriated the U.S. for its attacks on targets in Afghanistan proclaiming, "Every true believer denounces this action."

The Press: The Iraqi Babel, run by Saddam Hussein's son Uday, writes, "The aggression by the US administration on Afghanistan, after those on Iraq and Palestine, is a form of organised terrorism against the peaceful peoples of the world and America will have to assume the consequences of its acts."

The People: There were no reports about Iraqi citizen response to the attacks.



The Leaders: Indian leaders endorsed U.S. actions. A foreign ministry spokeswoman said, "India at the outset had expressed its strong solidarity and support for action contemplated by the US." However, she said India had expressed concerns about "cross-border terrorism" in the disputed region of Kashmir.

The Press: Indian newspapers focus on the effect the military campaign in Afghanistan will have on India and Pakistan's dispute over Kashmir. "While India wholeheartedly supports the US joining the war on terrorism," opines the Times of India, "there are worries whether [Pakistani President] general Musharraf will not extract a price from the US for his cooperation by getting Pakistani terrorism against India and the proxy war in Kashmir exempted from the definition of terrorism."

The People: In the disputed Muslim-majority state of Kashmir, hundreds of pro-Taliban protesters rallied against the United States, some chanting, "Osama move forward we are with you." Police used tear gas to break up the protests, injuring 20 people.


Great Britain

The Leaders: British Prime Minister Tony Blair defended British participation in the attacks in a forceful speech Sunday. He explained, "It is more than two weeks since an ultimatum was delivered to the Taliban to yield up the terrorists, or face the consequences. It is clear beyond doubt that the Taliban will not do this. They were given the choice of siding with justice, or siding with terror. They chose terror." British Conservative leader Ian Duncan Smith endorsed British involvement in the strikes, arguing, "The allied attack is, I believe, a justified action against an organization which has put itself beyond the rule of law. The Taliban and Bin Laden are the aggressors. The coalition is simply seeking justice for the evil attack carried out by them."

The Press: The British press has been overwhelmingly supportive of British participation in the attacks. Nevertheless, the Guardian of London reports that aid agencies are critical of the military action and of the air drops of humanitarian aid, calling the drops expensive, risky, and "virtually useless." And the Guardian's Madeleine Bunting charges the West with "western fundamentalism," which "echoes the characteristics it finds so repulsive in its enemy, Bin Laden: first, a sense of unquestioned superiority; second, an assertion of the universal applicability of its values; and third, a lack of will to understand what is profoundly different from itself."

The People: Though more than 100 people protested British involvement in Sunday's attacks on targets in Afghanistan, a recent poll found that more than two thirds of the population supports military action so long as there are no civilian casualties.


The Leaders: French President Jacques Chirac promised Sunday that French troops would participate in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. Indicating his full support, Chirac said, "our level of capacity for intervention is strictly comparable to that of Britain." Meanwhile, Green and Communist deputies in the ruling left-wing coalition disagreed with Chirac. For example, Green deputy Noel Mamere, called the U.S. attacks an "act of war" against the people of Afghanistan. Said Communist deputy Jean-Pierre Brard, "France must not appear to be a simple appendix of the United States which makes decisions for the entire world."

The Press: The French press has been widely supportive of the attacks. Writes the left-leaning La Liberation, "Yes to strikes against the Taliban, yes to everything that can help isolate the bin Laden network" -- but it warns against excessive use of force. Likewise, the conservative Le Figaro argues, "In less than a month . . . George W. Bush, who some said was elected unjustly, drab, even narrow-minded, has asserted himself as a strong and capable president."

The People: There were small protests of U.S.-British actions in France, one near the U.S. embassy in Paris. The few hundred protestors chanted slogans such as "Bush murderer" and "No Talibush."



The Leaders: Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chr├ętien vowed complete participation in the war on terrorism, including military, "diplomatic, financial, humanitarian, legislative and domestic security initiatives" according to the Globe and Mail.

The Press: Globe and Mail columnist Edward Greenspon gripes, "George W. Bush finally thought to mention Canada yesterday," while Marcus Gee argues, "as dangerous as the next few weeks will be, it would be far more dangerous to do nothing."

The People: The Globe and Mail, interviewing Canadian citizens, reports that response to the attacks -- and to Canada's pledge of support -- has been mixed.