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Rumsfeld Lauds U.S. Special Ops Forces in Afghanistan

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

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2001 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had nothing but kudos for U.S. special operations troops in Afghanistan during his daily Pentagon media briefing. He also shed some light on exactly what they're doing there.

"Several hundred" American forces on the ground have been gathering information and helping find targets for coalition aircraft, Rumsfeld explained.

"For the most part the special ops have been making assessments, and interdicting roads and looking for supplies moving north or south or east or west," Rumsfeld explained. "(They're also) attempting to prevent people who ought not to be going places, from going places."

He said several times the troops are doing a great job. "They are certainly doing exactly that which they have been asked to do and performing exceedingly well," Rumsfeld said.

The secretary denied reports American forces know where Osama bin Laden and other terrorist and Taliban leaders are, saying it would be "foolhardy" for him to try to speculate. "The Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership can be any number of places, and they move frequently," Rumsfeld said.

He also said he didn't know how much of the Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership have been killed in six weeks of bombing. "We have been targeting command and control and leadership activities where we get information that leads us to believe that Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders are gathered," Rumsfeld said. "When we do that, we're not on the ground to make body counts."

Rumsfeld acknowledged the CIA has operatives on the ground in Afghanistan and said they are working closely with U.S. military troops there. He denied, however, reports that CIA and DoD are competing in any way or aren't cooperating with each other. "They are tucked in very tight with the U.S. military," Rumsfeld said. He added the CIA personnel report through the commander in chief of U.S. Central Command, as do the military forces there.

"You can only have one person with his hand on the steering wheel, and that's General Tommy Franks," Rumsfeld said, referring to the U.S. Central Command commander.

The secretary was adamant that Taliban troops mounting an apparent last stand in the northern Afghanistan city of Kunduz not be allowed to negotiate their way out. Rumsfeld said that ultimately the Northern Alliance commanders directing the opposition forces fighting there will decide how best to deal with the situation, but that America is strongly urging them to not let the Taliban troops get away.

"The idea of their getting out of the country and going off to make their mischief somewhere else is not a happy prospect," Rumsfeld said. He would rather they be killed or taken prisoner, he said.

"Any idea that those people ... should end up in some type of negotiation that would allow them to leave the country and go off and destabilize other countries and engage in terrorist attacks on the United States is something that I would certainly do everything I could to prevent," Rumsfeld said.

Any prisoners would have to be taken by opposition forces, not Americans. "We have only handfuls of people there. We don't have jails; we don't have guards," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld also took the opportunity once again to reiterate that America's goal is to stop terrorists from being a threat to the United States. He cautioned that this "won't be an antiseptic war" and that America may yet suffer casualties.

"If you're going to put people's lives at risk, you'd better have a darned good reason," he said. "And we do."

On Nov. 18, coalition aircraft flew 138 combat sorties over Afghanistan. "The sorties were largely in support of opposition troops," DoD officials said. The strikes were largely around Kunduz and Kandahar.

Three C-17s dropped 39,240 humanitarian daily rations as well as wheat and blankets. Leaflets drops and Commando Solo broadcasts also continued

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DoD News Briefing - Secretary Rumsfeld, Nov. 19, 2001

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