Afghanistan Will Be 'Long, Long Campaign'; Food Rumor False, Official Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2001 In the third week of fighting to oust Al Qaeda terrorists and their Taliban supporters in Afghanistan, a senior DoD official today said the conflict would be a prolonged effort requiring much patience.
The Taliban and Al Qaeda forces "are proven to be tough warriors," DoD spokesperson Navy Rear Adm. John D. Stufflebeem told Pentagon reporters.
"We're in an environment they are obvious experts in and it is extremely harsh," he noted. The terrorists are reportedly using Afghanistan's mountainous terrain to conceal their leaders and equipment.
Stufflebeem remarked that he is "a bit surprised at how doggedly" Taliban leader Mohammed Omar and his followers "are hanging on to power" in the face of relentless U.S. and allied military assaults. However, their fall is a matter of "inevitability," he emphasized.
U.S. and allied military efforts to remove Afghan and Al Qaeda terrorists will require patience, he said.
"Terrorism and terrorists are a much different kind of threat than we've ever faced before," he noted. They "are the kind of people who want to survive to be able to rain their terror and fear upon others around the world -- and they are very patient."
Terrorists apparently spent years putting together some "sophisticated operations that we have seen firsthand," he added. So Americans, too, will need patience and determination -- to destroy terrorists and their networks, he said.
"This is going to be a long, long, campaign," Stufflebeem emphasized. "We are prepared to take however long is required to bring the Taliban down."
On Oct. 23, he remarked, some 90 U.S. warplanes, including AC-130 Spectre gunships, struck five planned targets in Afghanistan, to include terrorist training camps, Taliban command-and-control centers, armored vehicles, and maintenance and warehouse facilities.
He said he has seen news accounts citing Afghan refugees who describe seeing Taliban forces moving into residential neighborhoods and staying in peoples' homes and university dormitories, and using mosques to conceal their vehicles.
"I think that is now a matter of fact, and we're getting it from open-source reporting," the admiral said.
Stufflebeem said C-17 transports dropped about 34,000 humanitarian daily ration packages to needy Afghans and refugees, bringing to more than 785,000 the total delivered since the military campaign began Oct. 7. He also discussed a new, threatening development in the feeding program.
"The United States has obtained information that the Taliban might intend to poison humanitarian foodstuffs" earmarked for Afghans and try to blame America, Stufflebeem said. Any report saying that the United States would poison humanitarian rations or other food donated to the Afghan people "is categorically false," he said.
"We would never poison any foodstuffs. We are a humane people. We want to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need," Stufflebeem emphasized. "It is just beyond our comprehension that we would consider poisoning a food source."