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Four U.S. Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan Explosion

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 15, 2002 – Four American soldiers were killed and another injured in Afghanistan this morning when a 107 mm rocket exploded while the troops were destroying captured weapons near Kandahar, according to U.S. Central Command officials.

CENTCOM officials said the wounded soldier was evacuated to a medical facility at Kandahar. The soldiers' names have not been released.

"This tragic event highlights that even when not actively engaged against enemy forces that our service men and women remain at risk as they perform their mission around the world and particularly in Afghanistan," Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a noon Pentagon press briefing.

He underscored this point by describing several incidents from over the weekend in Afghanistan. The general described an apparent firefight April 13 in which a convoy of U.S. and Afghan forces was fired upon and called in a U.S. AC- 130 gunship for support.

"The aircraft located and fired upon the enemy position, killing several of the enemy," he said.

Myers said U.S. Special Forces soldiers and friendly Afghan forces found several weapons storage sites while searching a suspected enemy complex. The sites contained mines, rockets, explosives and anti-aircraft artillery pieces "that we assess were used for training," he said.

Two incidences of suspected rocket-propelled grenade fire were reported in the vicinity of Khost over the weekend. Myers said two suspected RPGs were fired April 13 near U.S. positions at an airfield in the area, but resulted in no injuries or damage to friendly forces or equipment. Another two suspected RPGs impacted about two kilometers from the same airfield April 14. Myers said it was uncertain that the weapons were even targeting U.S. positions.

"While we've made good progress in restoring stability to Afghanistan, clearly getting a peaceful environment will take a good deal of time," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said. "The country is fragmented politically. It does not have a strong tradition of democracy, as we all know, and I think any expectation that it will suddenly transform itself into a Western-style democracy ever, let alone instantaneously, is misplaced."

However, he said, "the sporadic violence of recent days is nothing compared to the brutal rule of the Taliban and the al Qaeda."

In other news, Rumsfeld said defense officials plan this week to announce the specifics of the Unified Command Plan, which is expected to overhaul the current U.S. system of joint military commands.

"It will be a plan which will restructure and streamline a number of aspects of the military commands, which we believe will better fit it for the challenges of the 21st century," Rumsfeld said.

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