- The Washington Times - Monday, November 5, 2001

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday that more U.S. ground troops have been moved into Afghanistan in the last day or so, and forces opposed to the Taliban will be supplied through the fast-approaching winter.
"The more teams we get on the ground, the more effectively we'll bring air power to bear on the Taliban lines," Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said on NBC's "Meet the Press," describing Army special forces units deployed with the Afghan opposition Northern Alliance.
"Just last night, the night before, we put in a couple of more teams with other opposition leaders, and we'll continue to do that," the chairman said.
Gen. Myers did not provide numbers, but the smallest such team, the A Team, has 12 soldiers. U.S. commandos in Afghanistan are being used as spotters for bombers and for communications and resupplying missions.
To date, the number of Americans on the ground in Afghanistan has remained small reportedly around 100. Some in Congress have said thousands of U.S. ground troops will be needed if the United States is to track down and eliminate Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network and to destroy the Taliban regime that harbors them.
U.S. planes blasted Taliban front lines yesterday, as foreign aid workers estimated up to 300 fighters of the ruling Afghan militia were wounded in the last week.
The Pentagon said yesterday that U.S. bombing over the weekend focused on targets close to four key cities near the Taliban front lines: Bagram, Taloqan, Konduz and Mazar-e-Sharif.
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, who a week ago sharply criticized how the war was being conducted, said yesterday on "Fox News Sunday" that he was "very encouraged by the actions of the last few days, particularly the increases in bombing on the Taliban lines, many of the other operations that are going on. I'm very encouraged."
But despite the bombing, the Taliban has recaptured some areas lost to opposition forces only a day earlier, a spokesman for the Northern Alliance told Reuters.
In the NBC interview yesterday, Gen. Myers the nation's top military official said the war is "going according to plan." He expressed confidence the United States "will prevail" in what he and other military officials predict will be a long conflict.
The Air Force general enumerated successes to date.
"We have taken down Taliban air defenses. We have disrupted their ability to resupply their own forces. We took down their transports, most of their helicopters. Most of their communications have been taken down," said Gen. Myers, adding that he understands that the Taliban is using runners for communication.
But the chairman dismissed early claims by another Pentagon general who said U.S. air strikes had "eviscerated" the Taliban.
"That was a misstatement they have a substantial force left. But at this point in the campaign, that's exactly what we expected," he said.
Gen. Myers said weather conditions were a factor in the crash Friday of a U.S. helicopter that was on a rescue mission in Afghanistan. Four persons were injured, he said.
Asked how much of a problem the snow and freezing rains associated with winter in Afghanistan, which will begin this month, will pose for American troops, he said, "In any combat operation or any conflict, weather's probably your number one concern.
"It's no different in Afghanistan," Gen. Myers said. "Let me assure people that we're going to fight right through the winter. The winter is not going to stop us from doing what we have to do."
In a report Friday, The Washington Times said U.S. special forces commandos see winter as a friend, not a foe, in Afghanistan, because they train in winter and use detection devices that are heat-sensitive.
As winter closes in, Gen. Myers said, the United States has begun resupplying the Northern Alliance and other anti-Taliban groups with ammunition, food and blankets.
Pointing out that the air campaign is believed to have destroyed much of the ammunition and other supplies the Taliban had stored in warehouses, he said, "The fighting forces on the side of the opposition on our side will be much better prepared [for winter] than will be the Taliban."
However, Northern Alliance spokesman Harold Amin said on CNN yesterday the opposition forces have not received all the military supplies they were promised.
"There were promises made by the international coalition that military aid in the form of tanks and APCs and heavy artillery, as well as ammunition, was to be delivered." But he said most of it has not been received.
There have been "air drops of ammunition here and there but the material is not enough" to help the Northern Alliance make gains against the Taliban, said Mr. Amin.
On NBC, Gen. Myers was asked about a new report in the New Yorker by Seymour Hersh, which claims that U.S. forces that took part in a commando raid in Afghanistan Oct. 20 encountered not only rifle fire, but also mortars and grenades from the Taliban. According to the report, 12 persons were injured, three seriously.
"That's not true. My belief is that every soldier that came back from that particular raid is back on duty today, none of them seriously injured, certainly none of them injured by the Taliban," Gen. Myers said. "There was no resistance. The Taliban were in complete disarray."
Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, echoed those statements in an interview on ABC's "This Week."
"We had a bunch of young people who had scratches and bumps and knots from rocks [which they parachuted into] and all this sort of stuff. So it's probably accurate to say that maybe five or maybe 25 were, quote, wounded. We had no one wounded by enemy fire," Gen. Franks said.
On another issue, Gen. Franks said the United States remains open to halting bombing in Afghanistan during the Muslim fasting period of Ramadan, which begins Nov. 17.
"It would be foolish not to listen to people who have joined with us in this campaign we're listening to all the views. Then we'll make a decision on whether to move ahead or not," he said on "This Week" a softer stance than previous U.S. statements.
President Bush indicated last week the campaign would not ease during Ramadan. "The enemy won't rest during Ramadan and neither will we," Mr. Bush said. On Thursday, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice also said the United States will continue air strikes during Ramadan.
Yesterday, two key congressmen Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Henry J. Hyde, chairman of the International Relations Committee reiterated their belief that a Ramadan pause was unlikely and undesirable.
Mr. Hyde, Illinois Republican, says he believes the United States has already "made up its mind" to "go ahead" with the bombing during the Muslim holy month.


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