Attacks Continue in Afghanistan; Philippines Training Under Way
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 24, 2002 U.S. forces continue to encounter sporadic attacks in eastern Afghanistan, but it's difficult to pinpoint exactly where they're coming from, Air Force Brig. Gen. John W. Rosa said at a Pentagon briefing this morning.
It's a challenge to figure out who is behind the attacks, the Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman said. "There are so many weapons, anybody could get their hands on them," he said. "It could be factional. It could be criminal activity. Or it could be former Taliban and Al Qaeda."
In some cases, he added, the attacks may not even be aimed at U.S. and coalition forces. "It's hard to tell who they're targeting," Rosa said.
U.S. forces are encountering enemy fighters in the region, Rosa said, but he would not characterize how or what types of activity they are seeing.
"If we say from up here what we think is important in what we're seeing, it's an obvious counter for them. But there are bad people in that part of eastern Afghanistan; we've said that all along. These types of spurious attacks lead to instability," he said. Rosa stressed "training the Afghan national army, which is due to begin in the near future, is key to our existence there."
The general also outlined what U.S. forces are doing in the Philippines to help local authorities combat terrorism. About 600 U.S. troops are on Zamboanga and Bacolod Island training, advising and assisting Philippine troops at their request.
"The training thus far has been at the battalion level and above," Rosa said. "It's centered on their upper echelon. It's focused on intelligence gathering and intelligence dissemination and those types of effort."
Exercise Balikatan began April 22 on the main island of Luzon, he said. The combined joint exercise runs through May 6.
Defense officials say the exercise is designed to improve the Philippines-U.S combined planning, combat readiness and interoperability. The training will also enhance security relations and demonstrate U.S. resolve to support the Philippines against external aggression and state-sponsored terrorism.
Over the weekend, the United States also deployed just over 300 engineers to the Philippines to repair roads, bridges and seaports, landing strips and put in fresh water wells. The work is part of an overall force protection effort for both U.S. and Philippine forces, he said.
In some areas it's difficult to maintain roads, said Rosa, who noted that he's traveled extensively in the Philippines during his career. "If you've got a rutted-out road, if you've got a bridge that's out, you must stop, which gets folks bunched up and you become more of a target."
The United States is also contributing to counterterrorism efforts in Yemen. Rosa said a U.S. team of less than 20 troops would soon begin a training, advising and assisting program there. "The folks that are there now are just the initial folks who are setting up and getting everything ready." The U.S. footprint in Yemen will be small, he concluded.