by Selwyn Manning
On the brink of war - Reports tonight speak of a human catastrophe unfolding by the hour along Afghanistan's borders while thousands of civilians flee the country.
On the border:The scenic road to the Torkham border into Pakistan winds through purple mountains and a river the colour of jade. Most days the sky is an unearthly blue. But today, the road is already choked with refugees trying to escape.
Today, some 5,000 refugees arrived at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border post, only to be beaten back by Pakistani guards. There are some two million Afghan refugees already in Pakistan and the Pakistani government does not want any more.
In Iran:Iran has also closed off its borders to Afghanistan. Iran's Interior Ministry has ordered security forces to seal off the border. Iran also has more than two million Afghan refugees.
In a statement carried by the official IRNA news agency, the ministry said its military and police forces have been deployed along the 900-kilometer border to prevent Afghans from crossing over: "in the aftermath of the probable US attacks."
United States tonight has readied its forces to strike back at those responsible for Tuesday's [New Zealand time] terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.
Afghanistan's Taliban rulers called on Muslims worldwide to launch a "holy war" if it is attacked by the West.
In the USA:Across the United States thousands of military reservists prepared for duty after US President George W Bush declared the nation was getting ready to smoke its enemies "out of their holes."
He emerged from a Camp David meeting, a place where normally peace is the purpose of discussions, to say: "Everyone who wears the uniform should get ready. We're at war. There's been a war declared."
"The United States will do what it takes to win this war," President Bush said.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Pakistan, Afghanistan's neighbor and one of just three countries to recognize the Taliban government, had agreed to help the United States with "whatever might be required." The USA needs to use Pakistan's airspace and also land if it is to launch a ground invasion force against Afghanistan.
In the UK:British Prime Minister Tony Blair has called for diplomatic caution in the mounting war against Islamic countries.
The Guardian this evening reported a Whithall source as saying: "Everybody wants caution." During conversations between Blair and Bush earlier in the week, Blair stressed that hard evidence must be presented 'before action could be taken'. The Guardian reported that Blair also said "carpet-bombing indistinct targets" would be "counter-productive".
Bush reportedly agreed and he did not want to be involved in simply "bombing sand".
In Afghanistan: Afghanistan's ruling Taliban leaders issued a rare 15 minute radio address preparing the Afghan people for war. The Taliban supreme leader said people should put their faith in Allah, that they shouldn't be afraid of an attack from the United States. If they put their faith in Allah they would be OK.
But that hasn't stopped Kabul's affluent residents from packing their bags.
The Observer newspaper this evening reported bearded Afghan fathers locking their gates, driving off in Toyota pick-up trucks towards the Khyber Pass, the mountainous gateway to Pakistan.
The newspaper reports how their wives, hiding beneath flowing blue burqas, sit in the back, soothing their children. Kabul's tiny middle class is leaving. So too is anybody with enough money to get out. 'Everyone is frightened,' Asim Jan, a cobbler in the eastern city of Jalalabad, said yesterday.
The crisis began long ago for Afghanistan. The horrors of the past week began for these people before the flying bomb terrorist attacks on New York's Twin Towers.
Last Sunday two Algerians posing as journalists blew up the Taliban's main foe, the charismatic guerrilla commander Ahmad Shah Masood.
The bombers were sent by Osama bin Laden as a personal favour to the Taliban's reclusive leader, Mullah Mohamed Omar - this is according to the Taliban opposition.
Masood's assassination - he appears to be dead, although conflicting accounts continue to circuit - was followed two days later by the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.
Opposition sources suggest the two events were synchronised. They lead directly back to bin Laden, they claim.
The Taliban refute this and insist bin Laden could not have had any part in the attacks on the United States.
Saturday saw Taliban leader, Mullah Mohamed Omar attempt to reason why bin Laden could not have been behind the US attacks.
"He has no pilots," Omar said. "In Afghanistan there is no such possibility for the training."
He then issued is Radio Shariat broadcast: "Don't be cowards," he said. "I am ready for sacrifice. Every Muslim should be ready for holy war and take strength from their faith in Islam," he said.
"If America is now pointing fingers at us, it will be the third imperialis to attack our country. During the British and Russian invasions of years past, there was no Osama bin Laden or Taliban, so don't blame Osama. I swear by Allah that, if we hand over Osama, even then the Americans will look for excuses to attack."
In New York: rescue workers have been
fighting mud and slush in their vain attempts to rescue
victims of Tuesday's bombings. The stench of the dead is
also now rising from the rubble - caused by suicide
terrorists in a plot that defies logistical, strategic,
moral, and human