Opposition/Terrorists 'In Standoff' At Kunduz, Kandahar
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2001 About three-quarters of Afghanistan is now in the hands of opposition forces, while concentrations of Taliban and Al Qaeda troops continue to be bottled up in the cities of Kunduz and Kandahar, a senior Pentagon spokesperson said today.
"The situation in Kunduz and Kandahar remains the same, which is a standoff," Navy Rear Adm. John D. Stufflebeem told reporters at the Pentagon. The situation, he added, "is not unlike what we observed around Mazar-e Sharif before it fell" to opposition forces Nov. 9.
Opposition groups are "working to establish civil order and consolidate their gains, as well as continuing to reduce the Taliban and foreign fighter pockets of resistance," Stufflebeem noted.
He remarked that opposition forces "are working with Afghan counterparts" to obtain the surrender of Taliban and Al Qaeda troops trapped in Kunduz, east of Mazar-e Sharif in the north, and at the Taliban stronghold city of Kandahar in the south.
Stufflebeem said American and coalition military forces continue to support opposition requests for "on-call" air strikes on Taliban and Al Qaeda targets in Kandahar, Kunduz and elsewhere in the country.
Some air strikes could be temporarily suspended at the request of opposition forces, Stufflebeem said, to facilitate their efforts to obtain the surrender of Taliban and Al Qaeda troops.
"I think that it would be fair to say that if the opposition groups were to ask us not to bomb a specific facility or a location so they could continue their discussions, we'll certainly honor that," he said.
U.S. Marines on ships in the theater of operations are under U.S. Central Command chief Army Gen. Tommy Franks, who is in charge of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, Stufflebeem told reporters. Franks could conceivably employ the Marines at some point "in traditional doctrine ways as well as supporting special operations," he noted.
Stufflebeem said yesterday's U.S. and coalition air operations in Afghanistan involved about 65 strike aircraft, including 50 sea-based tactical jets, 10 land- based jets, and a number of land-based bombers. The strikes, he said, focused on Taliban and Al Qaeda cave and tunnel complexes, and terrorist troops in the Kandahar and Kunduz regions.
Commando Solo broadcast missions continued as did leaflet drops, Stufflebeem noted. Three C-17 aircraft delivered more than 55,000 humanitarian daily rations to hungry Afghans, he remarked, making a total of more than 1.7 million rations delivered since Oct. 7.
Stufflebeem showed reporters one photo and four videos of U.S. and coalition air strikes in Afghanistan. The photo, he explained, depicted a Nov. 17 precision bombing raid that destroyed many Taliban tanks and armored personnel carriers in the southern part of the country.
The videos showed: a Nov. 15 strike on a Taliban and Al Qaeda supply depot and terrorist training camp in eastern Afghanistan; a Nov. 15 hit on a Taliban tank south of Kandahar; a Nov. 18 strike on a Taliban armored vehicle formation near Kunduz; and a strike on Taliban forces occupying a trench outside of Taloqan.