Northern Alliance, U.S. Special Forces at Gates of Kabul
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2001 U.S. special operations forces played a key role in the current Northern Alliance successes in Afghanistan, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers said during a press conference Nov. 13.
Special Forces soldiers helped coordinate the Northern Alliance tactical victory at Mazar-e Sharif on Nov. 9 and coordinated air attacks that assisted in neutralizing Taliban capabilities.
Myers said the Northern Alliance advances finally could not have been achieved without "the Afghan citizens' rejecting Taliban control and, in some areas, (the) Taliban defecting to the opposition rather than face destruction."
Myers said that the Northern Alliance on Friday controlled roughly 15 percent of Afghanistan. Today, they have forces in roughly half the country.
"The Taliban appear to have abandoned Kabul and some Northern Alliance forces are in the city," Myers said. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld confirmed this and said some U.S. Special Forces soldiers are on the ground with the Northern Alliance in Kabul.
Rumsfeld also announced that U.S. special operations forces are on the ground in southern Afghanistan. They are not acting with tribes or factions, but are contributing in their own ways.
While pleased, Rumsfeld said the effort is not about "one man or one terrorist network or even one country." He stressed that capturing or killing Osama bin Laden will not end the problem of terrorism. Officials estimate that just Al Qaeda has cells in more than 60 nations.
"It's a problem that needs to be stopped because, as the president said, 'Terrorism is a threat that cannot be ignored nor can it be appeased,'" Rumsfeld said.
He said the U.S. priority is to hunt down the Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership, destroy their military forces and to build a "land bridge" to bring food and medical supplies to Afghanistan through Uzbekistan.
U.S. or coalition forces may be used to open the land bridge. It's also undecided who will rehabilitate air fields in Mazar-e Sharif and Kabul. Rumsfeld said Army Gen. Tommy Franks will discuss the problem with the 15 to 20 foreign liaison officers at U.S. Central Command.
"They will look at capabilities and what might be appropriate for countries to provide," Rumsfeld said. The recommendation will go back through political channels for approval and the countries involved will make the announcements.
He said Taliban and Al Qaeda forces have a limited number of choices. They can flee and reorganize in the south of Afghanistan, flee and melt into countryside, flee to other countries, or they can defect.
"If they reorganize in the south we will go get them," Rumsfeld said. "If they go to ground, we will, as the president said, we will root them out. If they decide to flee, I doubt they will find peace wherever they select."