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Operation Mountain Lion Continues, Task Force Assumes Control

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 6, 2002 – Operation Mountain Lion continues in the mountains of southeastern Afghanistan, said Defense Department officials.

U.S. troops and coalition allies are searching caves and tunnels once used by al Qaeda and Taliban forces. While they are not finding much, U.S. Central Command officials said the searches are necessary.

"We don't want al Qaeda reoccupying these caves," Navy Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Klee, a command spokesman said. "We're doing this for deterrence purposes and also to make sure we didn't miss anything."

On May 31, Combined Joint Task Force-180 assumed control of operations in Afghanistan. Army Lt. Gen. Dan K. McNeill is the commander and reports directly to Central Command chief Army Gen. Tommy Franks. The task force commands U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan and supporting troops in Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Its headquarters is at Bagram Air Base, near the Afghan capital of Kabul.

About 400 people are in the task force headquarters, including staff officers from coalition partners. Some 20 nations have contributed forces to the coalition effort in the region. About 7,000 Americans, including U.S. forces training the new Afghan National Army, are among the roughly 14,000 troops under McNeill's command.

He does not command the International Security Assistance Force in the Afghan capital of Kabul. Turkey commands this force.

Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division will begin relieving the 101st Airborne Division later this month, officials said. They expect to complete the relief by late July. Duty in Afghanistan will be on a six-month rotation.

French soldiers will begin training the 2nd Battalion of the Afghan National Army in mid-June, Central Command officials said.

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