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Rumsfeld 'Impressed' With Troops' Efforts in Afghanistan

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 13, 2002 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today said he continues to be impressed with the daily work of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan in locating pockets of al Qaeda and Taliban and uncovering weapon caches.

This weekend, the secretary pointed out to Pentagon reporters, Special Forces troops in Afghanistan took three suspected al Qaeda fighters into custody. The alleged terrorists were then taken to Bagram Air Base, near the capital city of Kabul, for questioning, he added.

As part of the operation, Rumsfeld noted that U.S. troops also uncovered 10 high-explosive charges, 100 firing devices, 200 feet of detonation cord, five hand grenades, 82 mortar rounds.

This, the secretary said, was in addition to another weekend discovery of 50 rocket-propelled grenades, adding to "a mountain of arms and munitions" rounded up by U.S. and coalition troops in recent weeks.

By rounding up fugitive al Qaeda and Taliban and their weapons, U.S. and coalition troops are providing the fledgling Afghan government the opportunity to develop, Rumsfeld noted. At the same time, Afghanistan's citizenry has the security environment they need to be able to return to a somewhat normal life, he said.

While saying the overall security situation in Afghanistan is essentially sound, Rumsfeld cautioned it is less so southeast of Kabul, where two competing warlords have not contributed to that region's stability. He said he believes that situation will eventually settle down enough for humanitarian workers to perform their missions.

"We currently have forces in that area, forces embedded in the regional (Afghan) armies as well as forces conducting sweeps and being tipped off to caches of weapons on a regular basis," he explained. Conflicts among regional Afghan commanders have diminished, he added.

"The country of Afghanistan is certainly a much better place today than it was 10 months ago," the secretary emphasized.

However, the mission in Afghanistan isn't complete, Rumsfeld said. Pockets of Taliban and al Qaeda forces are still at large and present a viable danger.

Rumsfeld offered his condolences to the wife and family of Sgt. 1st Class Christopher James Speer, who died Aug. 7 of wounds he received July 27 in fighting near Khost, in eastern Afghanistan. Speer, 28, was one of five Special Forces soldiers wounded in the same incident; injuries to the other four were not life threatening.

He later pointed out to reporters that recent news reports citing his alleged dissatisfaction with the pace of operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the war against global terrorism were "utter nonsense."

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