U.S. Steps Up Attacks on Taliban, Al Qaeda Troops
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2001 "We are happy, eager and willing to do what we can to help seek out and destroy the Taliban and Al Qaeda forces," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters during an Oct. 22 Pentagon press briefing.
Rumsfeld emphasized that the reason for the air attacks is to destroy Taliban and Al Qaeda forces. To that end, the United States and coalition partners have been seeking out troop concentrations and are increasing air attacks against them in northern Afghanistan.
"It happens that they're arrayed against, for the most part, Northern Alliance forces in the northwest portion of the country," he said. "Our efforts from the air clearly are to assist those forces on the ground in being able to occupy more ground."
Success in finding Taliban and Al Qaeda positions has been mixed, he said. "To the extent we have excellent ground to air coordination the success improves," he said. "To the extent the forces move forward against Taliban and Al Qaeda forces, our success improves because it flushes them."
Asked if U.S. raiders over the weekend left Afghanistan with prisoners, defectors or volunteers, Rumsfeld said no. He then said he answered only that question because it's a good example of the kind he won't answer in the future.
"In war, things are confused," he said, noting the Taliban and Al Qaeda may not know exactly what happened -- and that's the idea. "Our goal is not to demystify things for the other side. This is a very complicated set of problems. The goal is to confuse, make more difficult, add cost, to frighten and to defeat the Taliban and the Al Qaeda."
Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, summarized weekend action for reporters and showed videotapes of bomb strikes on Taliban armored vehicles. He said U.S. forces on Saturday struck six planned target areas, including airfields and air defenses, command and control facilities, terrorist forces and camps. About 85 of the 90 aircraft used were tactical jets, primarily from carriers. The others were long-range bombers.
On Sunday, about 85 fighters and bombers struck eight planned target areas, including airfields, command and control facilities and Taliban forces.
Humanitarian airdrops continued with four C-17s delivering about 52,000 rations, bringing the total delivered to date to about 700,000, Myers said.
Leaflets were dropped Saturday in northeastern Afghanistan and Sunday in the north, south and west. Radio broadcast missions were also flown in conjunction with Saturday and Sunday missions.
Taliban spokesmen have accused the United States of bombing a hospital, killing more than 100 people. "We're not quite certain about that yet, but we're going to continue to look," Myers said. "The last thing we want to do is to cause any civilian casualties. We don't have any evidence yet."
A reporter began asking for comment about broadcasts by Al Jezeera television, the Arabic language network in Qatar, that purportedly show children and old people injured in U.S. air attacks. Rumsfeld responded instantly, even before the question formed.
"We have seen, repeatedly, things that are not true put out by the Taliban," he said. "We've seen them escort people to things they wanted seen. We've seen the things they wanted seen and the lies they've been putting forward carried across the globe on television and in the press.
"Now, what can one do about that? All one can do is to answer directly when we know for a fact it's true and say so. When we know for a fact it's not true, we'll say so. And when we don't know, we'll say so. And that's what we just did," he said. "We have no evidence that that's the case at the present time.
Rumsfeld responded obliquely to a question whether the United States would stop bombing during Ramadan, the month- long Muslim religious holiday that starts in mid-November.
"We have great respect for the views and many countries that are cooperating in this effort. The sensitivities and perspectives vary from country to country," he said. Muslim nations throughout history have fought among themselves or with others during holy days, he noted. "It has not inhibited them historically."