- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2001

U.S. intelligence agencies have identified 23 terrorist training camps in Afghanistan that have been targeted for military action, according to U.S. officials.

They also told The Washington Times that China has placed its military forces in the western part of the country on heightened alert and is moving troops to the border region near Afghanistan in anticipation of U.S. military strikes.

The officials said the 23 camps have been targeted by U.S. military forces assembling in the region. The forces include up to four aircraft carrier battle groups with cruise-missile-equipped warships and submarines, several hundred warplanes and special-operations ground troops.

Other targets in Afghanistan include some of the Taliban military forces, including a small number of MiG-21 aircraft, some tanks and armored vehicles and air-defense missile sites, defense officials said.

The Taliban militia reportedly has about 1,000 Russian-made T-54, T-55 and T-62 tanks, up to 30 surface-to-surface missiles, including Scuds and Frog-7s. Its air force is made up of some 30 MiG-23s and additional older aircraft along with 80 MiG-21s. Its surface-to-air missile forces include SA-2 and SA-3 batteries and SAM-7 and SAM-14.

The Taliban also is believed to have some U.S.-made Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, but defense officials said the batteries may have run down. The missiles were sent to the Afghan rebel groups fighting Soviet forces during the 1980s.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told a group of visiting former U.S. government officials last week that the military has selected numerous "high-value" targets inside Afghanistan, according to a participant in the meeting. The defense secretary also said that military action is likely to cause collateral damage.

The training camps are located in areas stretching from northeastern Afghanistan, below the territory controlled by the Northern Alliance, and stretching south and east throughout the country. They include camps near the cities of Kabul, Jalalabad and Khost and in the province of Uruzgan.

The officials did not provide further details of the locations of the bases.

Russia's government, however, has identified 55 facilities used by Saudi-born Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network, Reuters news agency reported.

The network includes terrorists from Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Philippines, Bangladesh, Kashmir and "nationals from Arab countries," according to the Russians.

At one of the camps near the town of Mess-e-Aynak, they said, terrorists are being trained by a staff of 130 men from Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Iraq, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.

Regarding the Chinese military movements, U.S. intelligence officials said the western group of forces for the People's Liberation Army was placed on heightened alert status last week.

Chinese troops have been detected moving from bases in Xinjiang toward areas near the border with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, the U.S. officials said.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman stated on Sept. 25 that "security measures" were being taken to secure the country's western border.

"In order to safeguard the peace and stability of China's border areas, we are fully entitled to implement security measures along our border," Zhu Bangzao told reporters in Beijing. He did not elaborate.

According to accounts from the far-western Chinese city of Kashgar, convoys of Chinese troops were seen heading down the Karakoram highway toward the mountainous areas around the Pakistani and Afghan borders, Agence France-Presse reported from Beijing.

China has been using military forces to keep order in Xinjiang province, where Muslim Uighur separatists have been fighting for independence.

The Frontier Post, an English-language newspaper published in Peshawar, Pakistan, reported Monday that Chinese military forces had begun exercises near the Afghan border.

The exercises were under way near Tashkurgan, a western outpost along the Afghan border. Chinese forces based at a nearby garrison have more than doubled in size over the past two weeks.

An estimated 4,000 Chinese troops are currently in the region, the report said.

Other military convoys were spotted moving from the provincial capital of Urumqi, where hotels reportedly are filled with Chinese military officers and schools are being used to house ground troops.

Beijing is opposing unilateral military action in Afghanistan and wants the United Nations to authorize any attacks.

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