U.S. Increases Number of Forces in Afghanistan
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
OVER THE INDIAN OCEAN, Nov. 5, 2001 The United States has more than doubled the number of Americans based with Northern Alliance bands, said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today.
Rumsfeld spoke to reporters while returning from a three- day, five-nation trip.
He said the U.S. Central Command was ready to put in three or four times as many people during operations over the weekend. "We didn't get three or four, but we've gone two- and-a-half times what we had," Rumsfeld said. "So now, instead of in two locations, we're in four -- maybe more. That will accrue to our advantage over the coming period."
Weather constraints, logistics and enemy activity precluded the command from making the full build-up.
The number of Americans is still modest, he said, but the Taliban is already feeling their presence. Rumsfeld said having ground-based forward air controllers increases the effectiveness of the air campaign.
He said the U.S. service members, in addition to improving the air-ground coordination, are also providing tactical advice, logistics support and communications support to the members of the Northern Alliance.
He said the conditions these Americans face are tough. There are few roads in the area. It is mountainous and difficult. He said the service members often have to ride horses or other animals to get to their destinations. Further, the effects of winter cold and snow are being felt; much of the area is well over 7,000 feet above sea level.
"Afghanistan is Afghanistan," Rumsfeld said. "It's a country with very few creature comforts at this stage." But, he said, the assignment's worth hardships because it's building cooperation between U.S. forces and the Northern Alliance.
"You stick (in) a few handfuls of very trained fine, young men who know their business and have excellent communication with us and are able to provide the kinds of assistance by way of ammunition, supplies and medical assistance as well as targeting information. That benefits those folks, and you can't help but have good cooperation," Rumsfeld said.