Franks Says Focus on 'Exploiting' Intelligence Sites
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2002 The focus in Afghanistan remains the "exploitation" of sites for information and intelligence, Army Gen. Tommy Franks, chief of U.S. Central Command, said today.
Franks said U.S. forces and anti-Taliban Afghan forces are searching complexes, caves, houses, bunkers, trenches and compounds throughout the country.
"One of the things we want out of the exploitation of these sites is actionable information and intelligence that will permit us to disrupt planned terrorist activity," Franks said from a hotel near his headquarters in Tampa, Fla., during a teleconference with Washington and Tampa reporters.
Stopping already planned terrorist acts is the priority. He said his command has a means to sift through the information quickly and send it to the appropriate agency. The command can also sift for information that will help on the ground in Afghanistan.
Franks said the United States has said from the beginning of the operation "that there is a distinct possibility that terrorist acts can be committed today, tomorrow at a great many places around the world." He said there are more than 60 countries with terrorist cells.
U.S. CENTCOM service members are continuing the search for Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and targets. Franks said the "world is not a large enough place" for Osama bin Laden to hide. He said the deployment of soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division to replace Marines of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit has not ended. He said the number of U.S. service members remains constant. "But that doesn't mean it won't go up if we need it," he said.
He said though the weather in Afghanistan is cold and snowy, U.S. service members are prepared and no cold- weather injuries have been reported.
Franks addressed news reports that said the Saudi government is going to ask the United States to pull its troops out of the kingdom. He said that in the course of Operation Enduring Freedom the Saudi Arabian government has been supportive.
"I have not received a suggestion by the leadership of Saudi Arabia that we should change our posture or our military-to-military relationship," he said.
Franks said U.S. and coalition forces have found Taliban and Al Qaeda tanks, armored personnel carriers, equipment, "lots of ammunition," and many pieces of intelligence in the areas they are searching. He said the forces have found neither weapons of mass destruction nor the potential to make them. They did find, however, that there was certainly a desire to make these weapons.
He said results of tests on chemicals found in drums in one location have not returned.