U.S. Casts Dragnet To Snag Al Qaeda, Taliban Leaders
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 2, 2002 The United States will use whatever resources needed including special operations forces to capture the Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership, Pentagon officials said Jan. 2.
"Special operations forces are involved in the search for Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership," said Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem. "They are taking part with anti-Taliban forces. In that regard, they are on the hunt."
Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke said the United States expects to have control of Taliban leader Mohammad Omar and Al Qaeda head Osama bin Laden when they are captured. She said the Afghan interim government, headed by Hamid Karzai, understands the U.S. position.
Clarke and Stufflebeem attempted to clear up confusion about the mission of Marines based in Kandahar. News reports had the Marines specifically searching for Omar. Security reasons are, in part, responsible for the confusion.
"We do not talk about operational details for the obvious reasons: it puts peoples' lives at risk, and it gives the bad guys a heads-up as to what we're doing," Clarke explained.
Clarke told reporters that DoD officials "try hard to give you information when we can that tells you something has happened, when it won't do any harm to a future operation."
Stufflebeem said the Marines were conducting "survey evaluations." They looked in locations and facilities where U.S. officials had good evidence that there had been Al Qaeda and Taliban forces. "We're casting a relatively wide net to build intelligence," he said.
On Jan. 1 in Afghanistan, U.S. planes flew 101 sorties. Pilots dropped no bombs. Stufflebeem said the aircraft were in an on-call mode for close air support. The last U.S. strike in the country was Dec. 28, when bombers hit a compound with pro-Taliban forces.
Commando Solo radio broadcasts continued in the country and troopers from the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) are flowing into Kandahar. The soldiers will replace the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
There are 221 detainees under U.S. control. There are 200 detainees in Kandahar, eight aboard the USS Bataan, 12 in Bagram and one in Mazar-e Sharif.
In related news, Clarke said the Treasury, State, and Justice departments announced six more groups have been identified as linked to terrorist activities.
These groups' financial assets will be frozen, Clarke noted, adding that "this war is not just military it's diplomatic, it's economic. It will continue to be fought and prosecuted on several fronts."
With the end of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, increased humanitarian relief -- including food, shelter and medical supplies -- is being brought into the stricken country.
"In December alone, the people of Afghanistan received over 114,000 tons of food," Clarke said. Non-governmental relief organizations say that the threat of starvation may be averted in most of the country.
In the Afghan capital of Kabul, medical officials are beginning a three-month campaign to provide vaccinations to more than 9 million children in Afghanistan, Clarke said.