U.S. Advisers Aid Northern Alliance, Build Cohesion
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 6, 2001 U.S. advisers are helping the Northern Alliance become more cohesive, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, but the rebels' ground war against the Taliban will be marked by successes and reverses.
The United States will help the Northern Alliance and other Taliban opposition groups when and where it can, he told reporters at a noontime Pentagon press conference. Rumsfeld said the number of Americans serving with Northern Alliance bands more than doubled over the weekend, and U.S. Central Command planners are seeking more opportunities to place these special operating forces.
These forces help the Northern Alliance with targeting, logistics, medical assistance and communications. Their presence has increased the accuracy and effectiveness of the air campaign.
Rumsfeld, who just returned from a swing through Central and South Asia, said he was encouraged by the unanimity the leaders of the region exhibit against terrorism.
"I found it gratifying to hear from leaders of countries that are not always in agreement with each other, but who all agree on the basic principle that terrorism has to be rooted out and that Afghanistan is indeed the right place to begin doing that," he said.
Rumsfeld visited Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and India during the three-day trip. He said the leaders of the region gave him useful, valuable insight into the situation in Afghanistan and the humanitarian problems in the region.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefed reporters on the campaign in Afghanistan. He said U.S. pilots flew about 100 attack sorties into the country Nov. 5. Most of the strikes were in support of the Northern Alliance. The U.S. military humanitarian ration airdrop effort continued with 34,000 packages dropped from three C-17s transports. Commando Solo II radio missions continue, as do leaflet drops.
Rumsfeld said one aspect of his trip was especially striking. That is that the events of Sept. 11 "have changed and are changing the world in ways that we really can't fully know yet." He said nations in the region and around the world are rethinking relationships, reorienting policies and realigning priorities.
"For example, the president's decision to waive certain military and economic sanctions on both India and Pakistan will likely have an impact in that region well beyond the anti-terror campaign in Afghanistan," Rumsfeld said.
He said the United States must find ways to shape this new world. "We need to avoid the tendency to think simply near- term, but rather to consider how the world will look five, 10, 15 years out," he said. "(The United States) must take advantage of this opportunity to work with friends, new and old, to try to help shape that world."
This global effort is not just aimed at defeating terrorism, "but to help shape a 21st century security environment in ways that contribute to peace and security in what is clearly a still dangerous and untidy world."