U.S. Ground Forces Helping Northern Alliance
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2001 A "modest" number of U.S. troops are on the ground supporting the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Oct. 30.
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld (right) acknowledges a reporter during a joint press conference in the Pentagon with Secretary of State for Defence Geoffrey Hoon (left), of the United Kingdom, on Oct. 30, 2001. The two defense leaders met earlier to discuss the progress of the ongoing military campaign against the forces of al Qaeda and their Taliban hosts in Afghanistan. DoD photo by R. D. Ward.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
In a joint press conference with British Defense Minister Geoffrey Hoon, Rumsfeld said the Americans are on the ground only in the north of the country. "We've had others on the ground who have come in and out, in the south," he said.
Rumsfeld said the U.S. personnel are uniformed service members who are assisting with resupply and communications liaison with some portions of the Northern Alliance. They are also "assisting with targeting and providing the kind of specific information that is helping with the air effort," he said. The presence of these personnel has improved the effectiveness of the air campaign against front-line Taliban and Al Qaeda forces, he added.
DoD officials said the U.S. forces have been on the ground for only a few days.
"It has taken time to get the kinds of help on the ground that can provide the specificity needed to provide good targeting from the air," Rumsfeld said.
The effectiveness of the air-ground coordination has been uneven because U.S. forces are not currently with each of the various opposition elements in the country, he said. "It will be more effective in areas where we do have people working with those forces," Rumsfeld said.
He said the ground commitment may grow. "It is true we have nothing like the ground forces we had in World War II or Korea or the Gulf War," he said. "Nor have we ruled that out."
Rumsfeld met with Hoon to discuss U.S.-British strategies against terrorism. The British have been in the action against Al Qaeda and the Taliban from the start. The British have allowed U.S. forces to use the Indian Ocean base of Diego Garcia. British forces fired Tomahawk cruise missiles at terrorist training camps at the start of the air war. In addition, British aerial refueling tankers and reconnaissance aircraft are supporting U.S. strike aircraft.
"Last Friday we announced that all of Britain's aircraft carriers re-equipped to carry helicopters, will join these forces along with an assault ship, two escorts, Royal Marines, naval auxiliary vessels and maritime reconnaissance and transport aircraft," Hoon said. This means about 4,200 British service members are committed to Operation Veritas, the United Kingdom's military contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom.