Two Soldiers Killed; Special Forces Assault Taliban Sites
By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2001 Ground forces, including Army Rangers, operating under U.S. Central Command struck two terrorist sites inside Afghanistan Oct. 19, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed.
DoD officials said two soldiers were killed in a Blackhawk helicopter accident in Pakistan. Their names have not been released.
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers said during a Pentagon briefing that the troops struck and destroyed an airfield in southern Afghanistan and a Taliban command and control center near Kandahar.
"U.S. forces were able to deploy, maneuver and operate inside Afghanistan without significant interference from Taliban forces," Myers said, adding that the troops did encounter "light resistance."
Myers showed video clips of special forces troops to Pentagon reporters. The video clips showed servicemen packing individual bags, loading onto transport aircraft and later jumping out of those aircraft for an airborne assault inside Afghanistan.
The video was taken at night with night-vision equipment, Myers explained. He noted that the service members found and destroyed a small weapons cache at the airfield.
Myers refused to disclose how many troops were involved or any more details of how they got into or out of Afghanistan, saying only that "they accomplished their objective." Part of the forces' mission was to collect intelligence, he said.
"One of the things I simply can't do is talk about any of the tactics, techniques and procedures that we used beyond what you've seen on that tape," Myers said in response to reporters pressing for more details. "If I were to divulge that, then the next time we conduct an operation somewhere in this world people would have an understanding of how we operate."
Myers dismissed outright Taliban claims that they shot down the helicopter in which two soldiers died. "I think it's pretty well established the Taliban lie," he said. "Any claims they shot this helicopter down are absolutely false."
He said the crash is classified as an "aircraft mishap" and is currently being investigated. He speculated the crash may have resulted from reduced visibility from landing in large amounts of flying dust at night. But, "it's going to be up to the mishap investigation board to tell us finally," he said.
The chairman expressed his sympathy for the families of the two soldiers killed. "They, and all who are participating in Operation Enduring Freedom, are heroes," Myers said. "They put their lives on the line on behalf of freedom and on behalf of America. And they do it each and every day."
President Bush, speaking in China where he is attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, said, "I want to assure the loved ones that the soldiers died in a cause that is just and right, and that we will prevail.
"These soldiers will not have died in vain," he said.
Myers also said five others were injured in the night's missions three on the helicopter that crashed in Pakistan, and two others during the airborne landing. He said none of the service members had life-threatening injuries. Defense officials didn't give any other details about the condition or the identities of those injured.
Meanwhile, air operations continued as well. Roughly 100 strike aircraft hit 15 planned targets, including anti- aircraft artillery sites, ammunition and vehicle storage depots and military training facilities. Four C-17 flights dropped 68,000 humanitarian ration packs as well.
Myers had words of high praise for all the troops involved in these operations. "The credibility of any of the senior leadership in the services rests really with the professionalism and the way our young forces members conduct themselves day in and day out," he said. "They have never let us down."