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Joint STARS, Global Hawk Afghanistan-Bound, Official Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 2, 2001 – The U.S. military's high-tech Joint STARS and Global Hawk airborne surveillance systems will soon fly over Afghanistan, a senior DoD official said.

"The deployment orders, in fact, have been released to deploy Global Hawk and J- STARS" in the Afghan theater of operations, DoD Spokesperson Navy Rear Adm. John D. Stufflebeem today told Pentagon reporters.

"The specific capabilities that they'll bring in this theater, I won't specify," said Stufflebeem, Joint Staff deputy director of operations for current readiness and capabilities. However, he noted, the capabilities of the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System are a matter of public record, and they come in handy "when you're looking for trucks or SUVs that are moving around."

The admiral suggested that Global Hawk, an unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicle, has a long "dwell time" that allows it to remain airborne longer than other aircraft to collect intelligence information.

He said that U.S. and allied air operations in Afghanistan Nov. 1 included targets involving active and suspected Al Qaeda terrorist and Taliban cave complexes, and a variety of other Taliban troop and military targets arrayed against Northern Alliance opposition forces.

About 65 strike aircraft hit nine planned targets as well as targets in several other engagement zones, Stufflebeem said. Strike aircraft included about 50 carrier jets, eight to 10 long-range bombers and the remainder land-based tactical jets, he noted.

Stufflebeem described the current situation between Taliban and Northern Alliance forces battling near the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif as "fluid."

"Commander Solo" broadcast missions continued, he noted, and C-17s transports delivered more than 34,000 daily rations to hungry Afghans, totaling 1,100,000 rations delivered since Oct. 7.

Stufflebeem showed reporters imagery depicting strikes made by Navy F-18 jets on two Taliban armored vehicles and a Taliban command and control building near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

Yesterday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told Pentagon reporters that he would like to triple the number of U.S. special forces troops on the ground assisting anti-Taliban forces in some parts of Afghanistan. The admiral noted today that freezing rain is currently delaying the deployment of more of those kinds of troops.

Stufflebeem noted the U.S. military and its allies "have the means" to tighten the noose around elusive terrorist Osama bin Laden, still believed to be holed up somewhere in Afghanistan. The admiral said he didn't know when bin Laden would be captured or eliminated, but agreed with President Bush's announcement today that U.S. or allied forces would eventually "get" him.

"The noose" around bin Laden "is tightening," Stufflebeem emphasized. Afghanistan "is getting much smaller," offering fewer and fewer places for bin Laden to hide, he concluded.

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