Paktia Province Becomes New Center of Concern
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 7, 2002 U.S. and coalition forces struck again at the Zawar Kili complex in Afghanistan's Paktia Province, DoD officials said Jan. 7.
Officials were concerned that Al Qaeda terrorists were using the complex to regroup.
"It is an Al Qaeda training facility, storage facility and a command facility," Joint Staff spokesman Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem said. "The strike was prompted by the intelligence that there was a lot of stuff there."
U.S. Central Command officials said the strikes hit armored personnel carriers, other tracked vehicles, supplies and munitions. Stufflebeem said the camp consists of one area above ground and two cave complexes. The strikes have leveled the buildings and sealed many of the caves.
"Al Qaeda is widely dispersed," Stufflebeem said. "They are attempting to regroup so they can amass for leadership and mischief purposes. The numbers are small and they are trying to find each other so they can continue their war."
Paktia is on the border with Pakistan. The province is just south of the Tora Bora cave and tunnel complex. Stufflebeem said the area had previously been a haven for Al Qaeda and the Taliban and that Al Qaeda and Taliban still occupy the area.
"We're continuing to find them and we're continuing to strike their equipment as we find it," he said during a press conference. "When you find tanks, it's pretty easy to determine that they are not ours, and they are clear targets."
Stufflebeem said he and other DoD officials would stop addressing questions about the whereabouts of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mohammad Omar and other senior leaders. "We are potentially giving away valuable information by saying that we have them, when we have them, and where we have them," he said. "We know senior leadership is being detained, we know senior leadership has been killed and we know (what) senior leadership is not in custody."
He said instead of "chasing shadows," DoD would cast a regional and worldwide net to capture Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders. "We will stop speculating openly about where they may be, as we build an intelligence picture that will allow us to have the 'sanctuary' to be able to move when the time is right without giving anything away," he said.
Stufflebeem said the air campaign is going well. Typically, U.S. and coalition aircraft are flying "a bit more than 100" sorties per day. They are primarily flying close air support or on-call interdiction missions called in by Special Forces with anti-Taliban forces.