Anaconda Over, but Operations Continue in Afghanistan
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 18, 2002 Operation Anaconda is officially over, but skirmishes near Gardez and west of Kandahar prove the Defense Department's premise that actions in Afghanistan are not complete.
Air Force Brig. Gen. John Rosa, Joint Staff spokesman, put it simply during a press conference March 18: "Operation Anaconda is over, but Operation Enduring Freedom continues."
Rosa said teams remain in the Operation Anaconda area looking for any remaining Taliban and al Qaeda. U.S., Afghan and coalition forces have searched more than 30 caves in the region so far and have found weapons, ammunition and documents.
On Sunday a patrol observed three vehicles about 45 miles southwest of Gardez, Rosa said. After watching them for a time, commanders called in helicopters to stop the convoy. When their warning shots were met with return fire, the aircraft destroyed the vehicles. In the firefight, 16 people in the convoy were killed, one wounded and one detained. There were no U.S. casualties.
"Numerous weapons, ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades were found in these vehicles," Rosa said.
A fourth car, just a bit separated from the other three, was stopped, found to contain a family and let go, he said.
U.S. forces also conducted a "site exploitation" of a compound in the vicinity of Kandahar, he said. Forces found a large cache of weapons and ammunition in the compound. They detained 31 people.
Operation Anaconda was important because it showed al Qaeda and Taliban that the United States was serious, "that our troops are up to the task," Rosa said. "And we know we accomplished quite a bit." He said the U.S. Central Command does not see large groups of al Qaeda or Taliban leaving the Operation Anaconda area.
Neither Rosa nor Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke wanted to quantify the number of al Qaeda and Taliban killed in Operation Anaconda. Clarke said conditions in the area make it very difficult to get exact numbers.
She did say that Operation Anaconda had effects on the al Qaeda. "We have debilitated and degraded to a certain extent the al Qaeda network," she said. The operation has clearly made it more difficult for al Qaeda to work inside Afghanistan and communicate with members outside the country, Clarke said.