Hunt Continues for Holdout Al Qaeda, Taliban; Hamdi Moved to Norfolk
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 9, 2002 U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan continue searching for al Qaeda and former Taliban, Brig. Gen. John Rosa said at a Pentagon briefing here today.
"We are seeing some things that give us some signs that we're locating enemy," he said. The Joint Staff spokesman said military officials are gathering intelligence throughout the country, but he declined to give details.
Recent violent incidents against the Afghan interim government prove the country is still a dangerous place, Rosa said. U.S. troops were not involved in the incidents.
"The training of the Afghan national army is of utmost importance to us," he said. "It's on the front burner. We need to get that started for long-term stability in that country."
On the subject of detainees, Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke noted that Yaser Esam Hamdi was moved to Naval Station Norfolk, Va., from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Defense officials said Hamdi's move was deemed appropriate in light of the possibility he's a U.S. citizen.
"He is at the brig, getting good treatment," Clarke said. "As a captured enemy combatant, he remains under the control of the Department of Defense. If he does indeed have U.S. citizenship, then he would not be a candidate for the military commissions. Beyond that, I just can't speculate about what we might do."
Every detainee is handled "very carefully and very deliberately to make sure we do the right thing, not necessarily the fast thing," she said. "We have no big desire to have any large numbers of detainees for any great length of time."
The priority concern is keeping those who want to harm Americans off the streets, she said. "If you look at previous conflicts, people were held for quite a long time," Clarke noted.
Officials at U.S. Central Command report 542 al Qaeda and Taliban detainees are in U.S. custody. Clarke said the U.S. priority has been to question detainees to get as much intelligence as possible to prevent future attacks.
"We're getting information," she stressed.