Ops Around Zawar Kili Winding Down, DoD Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 14, 2002 Military operations around Al Qaeda's Zawar Kili complex are winding down, Joint Staff spokesman Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem said today.
Stufflebeem said strikes over the weekend leveled the remaining buildings at the site and sealed all the caves. Coalition forces wanted to ensure Al Qaeda or Taliban could not reuse facilities at the complex.
Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke said coalition forces will now move into other areas in the search for Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and fighters.
The Zawar Kili area had more than 60 buildings and 50 caves, Stufflebeem said. "It was obvious once we got special operating forces on the ground to be able to look at this complex that this had at one time been a significant Al Qaeda facility," he said.
The facility was a training area, logistics point, and command and control node for Al Qaeda. Coalition forces had been systematically inspecting these facilities and then calling in air strikes. "This should conclude most of what's happening in this area for now," Stufflebeem said.
But Zawar Kili is not a unique area in Afghanistan, the admiral said. "This entire part of the country is riddled with hillsides and valleys with caves and aboveground structures," he said. "So we'll continue to look for where Al Qaeda forces are, where pro-Taliban forces are, and the facilities that they have used in the past." When coalition forces spot these targets, they will attack them.
The Khost and Paktia provinces in Eastern Afghanistan were havens for Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. Clarke said the Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters are probably trying to regroup and stopping them is one of DoD's main objectives. "If our surveillance or information leads to a target of opportunity of Al Qaeda we will go after them," she said.
More detainees will join the 20 already at the U.S. Navy Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Clarke said. She said members of Joint Task Force-160 at the base are treating the detainees humanely and in accordance with the Geneva Convention. The detainees are receiving "culturally appropriate" meals; they may shower each day; they receive medical care; and they can exercise once a day. Members of the International Committee of the Red Cross will visit the detainees in the next few days, Clarke said.
She said the detainees "are incredibly dangerous. (The detainees) are willing to blow themselves up or do anything possible to hurt and kill others. All the appropriate security precautions are being taken considering what you are dealing with."