'Hope' May Be Weapon in War on Terrorism
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 4, 2003 Sometimes the bullets in a war are not the kind made out of lead.
"Sometimes we don't shoot bullets," said Kuwaiti Army Lt. Col. Fahed Al-Shelaimi. "We 'shoot' medical supplies. We 'shoot' hopes. We 'shoot' school supplies."
"To fight the terrorism is to build a nation," the Kuwaiti officer said during a recent Pentagon press briefing. Al- Shelaimi chairs the U.S. Central Command headquarters' Humanitarian Assistance Working Group in Tampa, Fla. He was describing the work his country and the coalition against terrorism are doing in Afghanistan.
"The new coalition is of 48 countries to help in building Afghanistan," he said. Al-Shelaimi said his country has known aggression and terrorism. Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait in 1990 and a coalition united to force Saddam Hussein's withdrawal in 1991.
In Afghanistan, Kuwait has provided vehicles, supplies, medical help and personnel to help with reconstruction. Other countries have helped in other ways. Officers from several countries joined the Kuwaiti officer at the Pentagon to discuss their roles in the global war.
Rear Adm. Gonzalo Rodriguez, Spain's liaison at CENTCOM, spoke about his country's cooperation and contributions. In addition to humanitarian help in Afghanistan, Spain has been cooperating in military operations in the Horn of Africa and in Afghanistan. Spanish navy ships, part of Task Force 150, stopped and boarded a freighter delivering North Korean Scud missiles to Yemen, for example.
"In Afghanistan, we have helicopters in search and rescue operations," the admiral said. "We have airplanes supplying the country. We have an engineer group helping to rebuild bridges and major institutional facilities."
Spain has also provided expertise in explosive ordnance disposal in Kabul and Bagram, and it participates in the International Security Assistance Force. Rodriguez said the Spanish army has deployed a battalion-sized task force to the international security effort in the Afghan capital.
Outside medical care is essential to Afghanistan and several coalition nations are providing health care. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has provided some of the best medical facilities in Afghanistan.
Royal Jordanian Air Force Col. Yousef Alhnaity told reporters that the infrastructure in Afghanistan was destroyed by 23 years of war. In December 2001, soon after the Taliban fell, Jordan volunteered to send a field medical hospital to Mazar-e Sharif. The hospital officially opened Jan. 8, 2002, and has treated more than 165,000 patients and performed more than 2,000 surgeries.
"The medical staff consists of many senior military doctors who have extensive experience in treating military and civilian patients, including women and children," Alhnaity said. The hospital can perform the full range of medical procedures, he noted.
The Jordanians recently expanded the scope of their medical assistance as well. The colonel said they have sent doctors and other medical personnel to local clinics. They have also been involved in teaching local medical practitioners.
Preventing injuries has also been a part of Jordan's support effort. Afghanistan has millions of mines left over from years of war. Jordan has sent an Aardvark mine- clearing unit and personnel to the country. To date, the unit has cleared over 280,000 square meters in Bagram and Kandahar.
The Republic of Korea has also provided medical help to Afghanistan as part of its coalition contribution. Soon after the fall of the Taliban, South Korea sent doctors, nurses, other medical personnel and their equipment to the country, said Korean army Brig. Gen. Jong Ho Choe. In the past six months, the units have treated 29,000 Afghans.
The state of health in the country is shocking, Choe said.
"In Kabul, we provide the physical examinations for the trainees of the Afghanistan national army," he said. "The medical situation we encounter is terrible, as you know. For example, most of the trainees met the doctors for the first time in their lives, and 80 percent of them were suffering from parasites." The situation was about the same in his country right after the Korean War, he remarked.
South Korea is also providing engineering expertise, air and naval transportation, and other forms of humanitarian assistance and training.
"Last year, Korea invited more than 100 Afghan officials in agriculture, labor and woman departments to (see) how we reconstructed and developed our economy since the Korean War and to get ideas (of) what they really need," Choe said.
The contributions made by these and all the other allies in the global war on terrorism are invaluable, U.S. CENTCOM officials said. Coalition allies have many good ideas for not only combating terrorism, but for how to rebuild societies so that terrorism doesn't rear its head again.