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Wolfowitz Shares Special Forces' Afghanistan Dispatches

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2001 – The Northern Alliance and other opposition groups have made tremendous progress in Afghanistan -- last week, they controlled about 15 percent of the country and today control about half.

Defense officials said U.S. air support was pivotal in the battle. In his after-dinner keynote address at the Fletcher Conference here Nov. 14, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz spread the credit among all those participating.

The Fletcher Conference is jointly sponsored by the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis and the Army. The theme this year is "National Security for a New Era."

"Success in this campaign has come not just from our remarkable ability to fly bombers from bases in Missouri halfway around the world to strike targets with great precision," he said. "Success has also come from putting extraordinarily brave men on the ground so they could direct that air power and make it truly effective."

Wolfowitz read to the audience the contents of two situation reports U.S. Special Forces soldiers sent from Afghanistan. The dispatches testify to the role the men have played and will play in the campaign in Afghanistan, he said. Wolfowitz said he removed all classified information before sharing these dispatches.

The first is dated Oct. 25:

"I am advising a man on how to best employ light infantry and horse cavalry in the attack against Taliban T-55s (tanks) ... mortars, artillery, personnel carriers and machine guns -- a tactic which I think became outdated with the introduction of the Gatling gun. (The Mujahadeen) have done this every day we have been on the ground. They have attacked with 10 rounds AK's per man, with PK gunners (snipers) having less than 100 rounds ... little water and less food. I have observed a PK gunner who walked 10-plus miles to get to the fight, who was proud to show me his artificial right leg from the knee down. ...

"We have witnessed the horse cavalry bounding overwatch from spur to spur to attack Taliban strong points -- the last several kilometers under mortar, artillery ... and PK fire. There is little medical care if injured, only a donkey ride to the aid station, which is a dirt hut. I think (the Mujahadeen) are doing very well with what they have. They have killed over 125 Taliban ... while losing only eight.

"We couldn't do what we are (doing) without the close air support. ... Everywhere I go the civilians and Mujahadeen soldiers are always telling me they are glad the USA has come. ... They all speak of their hopes for a better Afghanistan once the Taliban are gone. Better go. (The local commander) is finishing his phone call with (someone back in the States)."

Wolfowitz said the soldier then went off and joined a cavalry attack on a Taliban position.

The second dispatch is dated Nov. 10:

"Departed position from which I spoke to you last night ... (We left) on horse and linked up with the remainder of (the element). I had meeting with (the commander). ... We then departed from our initial linkup location and rode into Mazar-e Sharif on begged, borrowed and confiscated transportation.

"While it looked like a rag-tag procession, the morale into Mazar-e Sharif was a triumphal procession. All locals loudly greeted us and thanked all Americans. Much waving, cheering and clapping even from the women. ... USN/USAF did a great job.

"I am very proud of these men who have performed exceptionally well under very extreme conditions. I have personally witnessed heroism under fire by (two U.S. NCOs - - one Army, one Air Force) when we came under fire last night, which was less than 50 meters from me. When I ordered them to call close air support, they did so immediately without flinching even though they were under ... fire. As you know, a (U.S. element) was nearly overrun four days ago and continued to call close air support and ensured (Mujahadeen) forces did not suffer a defeat. These two examples are typical of the performance of your soldiers and airmen. Truly uncommon valor has been a common virtue amongst these men."

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Remarks Prepared for Delivery by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz at the Fletcher Conference, Washington, D.C., Nov. 14, 2001

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