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Rumsfeld: Coalition Keeping Pressure On Taliban, Al Qaeda

By Gerry J. Gilmore
National Guard Bureau

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2001 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld noted today that U.S. and coalition forces continue to press Taliban and Al Qaeda troops in and around the southern Afghan city of Kandahar and elsewhere in the country.

Rumsfeld told reporters at a Pentagon news conference that the objective of the U.S. military campaign remains the same.

"It's to put pressure on the Taliban and the Al Qaeda in a variety of ways -- in what clearly will be over a sustained period -- until they're not a viable force and they're no longer capable of terrorizing people and destroying lives in Afghanistan or elsewhere," he noted.

Al Qaeda and Taliban troops have lost ground continuously since they abandoned the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif Nov. 9. The capital city of Kabul is in opposition forces' hands, as is Kunduz, which went over to the opposition last weekend.

Now, U.S. and coalition forces are after Al Qaeda and Taliban forces concentrated near the cities of Kandahar and Jalalabad.

"Today, a relatively small segment of Afghanistan is controlled by Taliban and Al Qaeda forces, and it seems to be growing smaller every week," Rumsfeld remarked. He added that coalition military actions around Kandahar "are unquestionably having an effect."

Rumsfeld noted the Taliban "can no longer freely move around the country. They're finding it increasingly difficult to manage their remaining forces."

He noted that U.S. and coalition forces "have already made a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Afghans who have suffered under years of brutal repression. Before the fight is over, they will make a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands more."

However, as Taliban and Al Qaeda troops lose more ground, the danger to U.S. and coalition forces "may be increasing," he remarked. The situation in Afghanistan is "untidy,' Rumsfeld noted, pointing to Taliban defectors and armed bandits roaming the country.

"We've said since the beginning of the campaign that there will be casualties, but that will not deter us," he said. He noted the death of CIA agent Johnny Michael Spann, killed Nov. 25 by Taliban prisoners during a four-day riot near Mazar-e Sharif. The former Marine Corps captain worked as an interrogator.

"He knew the risks of his profession and he accepted them on behalf of his country," Rumsfeld said. Spann is the first U.S. combat death in Afghanistan. "We certainly are proud of him and his family is right to call him a hero."

But, he noted, "There will be further casualties in this campaign, in Afghanistan and elsewhere. We may have troops captured or killed, but it will not deter us for a day or for a moment from our objectives. We are going after the Al Qaeda and the Taliban that support them, and terrorists and their supporters wherever we find them."

Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, accompanied the secretary at the press briefing. He told reporters about 110 U.S. and coalition strike aircraft flew missions Nov. 29 and focused on targets near Kandahar and on cave and tunnel complexes near Jalalabad.

More than 34,000 Humanitarian Daily Ration packs were delivered Nov. 29, bringing the total to over 2 million dispersed since Oct. 7, Pace said. Commando Solo broadcasts and leaflet drops continued, he noted.

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