Today, amid the fire, smoke and dust from carpet bombing by B-52s, dawn in Afghanistan rose on the second month of military conflict in President George W. Bush's 'new war' on terrorism. Yet the last week has served as a reminder that much about the war is in fact old. No easy or glib solutions lie ahead, whether it is defeating the Taleban - an unsophisticated but apparently tenacious opponent - or finding a government to replace them. The B-52s are some of the oldest and most brutal weapons in the US arsenal, known for their destruction of large areas of Cambodia and Vietnam 30 years ago. Lumbering in from bases on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, their indiscriminate firepower is being used across large areas north of the capital Kabul and around Mazar-i-Sharif. The appearance of the giant planes represents a dramatic escalation of the conflict after weeks of limited, more surgical strikes on specific targets. They are a clear message that Mr Bush is prepared to meet his rhetoric with action despite a week that has seen some of the first cracks appear in his support, both domestically and internationally. 'We are slowly but surely tightening the net on the enemy,' Mr Bush said. 'We are making it harder for the enemy to protect themselves. We are making it harder for the enemy to hide.' As he spoke, Taleban forces on the plains north of Kabul were reported to be regrouping and resuming their firing immediately after each day's bombing ended. Yet the carpet bombing is expected to set the scene for a new offensive around both cities by the Northern Alliance, which had been demanding tougher US action for days. A week ago, Mr Bush was facing international criticism for an earlier escalation in strikes around Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul, as well as Herat, Jalalabad and Kandahar. Several civilian villages were hit, independent witnesses confirmed. In one, a wedding ceremony was under way. Photographs later appeared of a dead bride and groom. But the Pentagon denied Taleban claims that as many as 1,500 people had been killed. On Monday, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf demanded a swift end to the hostilities and a break for the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan. On Friday, Mr Bush ruled that out. US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed successes, saying 'there was no question' that senior figures in the Taleban and the al-Qaeda terrorist network had been killed. He admitted, however, that the most important figures - including Osama bin Laden - remained at large. The next day he sought to quell criticism at the war's apparently slow progress. Mr Rumsfeld confirmed for the first time that US special forces commandos were now on the ground with the Northern Alliance, preparing targets for the intensified campaign now under way. 'We do have a very modest number of ground troops in the country,' he said. Officials later put a figure on the deployment - two dozen military advisers calling in air strikes near the front lines between Taleban forces and the Northern Alliance. Their presence was a show of support for the opposition forces. Washington had appeared nervous of giving the alliance too much backing lest it charged into Kabul and seized power before a delicate diplomatic effort could be finalised. Privately, Washington officials acknowledged the military effort had to press on regardless and supporting the alliance was the only option in the short term. Giant 500kg bombs were dropped on Taleban bunkers and caves close to the alliance-held Bagram air base. Reports surfaced of a secret strategy meeting between opposition defence chief Mohammed Fahim and US Afghanistan commander General Tommy Franks. By Thursday, the escalation was apparent. Bombing continued to intensify around Taleban front lines. More advanced surveillance was ordered and Mr Rumsfeld demanded increases in US forces on the ground. Alliance commanders replied with expressions of optimism that a major breakthrough could be days away. Within 24 hours the same opposition forces voiced fresh doubts. Pentagon officials warned sandstorms, freezing winds and ground fire had for weeks blocked efforts to fly in more special forces. As low-flying B-52s swept the skies, still the Taleban mounted resistance between bombing raids. 'All day they have been shooting at us,' said Muhammad Shah, an alliance soldier near the front line north of Kabul. 'The American bombs were the biggest I have seen in my life, but they missed the Taleban.'