- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2002

A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier was killed by small-arms fire in eastern Afghanistan today, the first member of the American military to die from enemy fire inside the war-torn country in the three-month-old campaign.
Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. Central Command, announced the death at a news conference in Tampa, Fla. He said the soldier's name was being withheld until family members were notified.
Gen. Franks said the Green Beret was part of a U.S. military team that was operating near the town of Khost, a few miles from the Pakistan border.
"There was an exchange of small-arms fire," Gen. Franks said. "This American serviceman was doing his job. He was out for the purpose of working with and coordinating with tribal leaders in that area."
He offered no other details of the incident.
The four-star general said the death underscored the dangers faced by U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, where there are pockets of resistance from al-Qaida and Taliban fighters.
On Nov. 25, CIA operative Johnny "Mike" Spann was killed during a prison uprising in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
The only other U.S. military members killed inside Afghanistan were three U.S. special operations troops mistakenly hit by a U.S. airstrike near Kandahar on Dec. 5. Two U.S. military members were killed in a helicopter crash in Pakistan early in the military campaign.
Pentagon officials have stressed frequently that although the large-scale fighting in Afghanistan is over, the country remains dangerous for U.S. troops, who now number about 4,000 on the ground.
Afghanistan "is still an extraordinarily dangerous place and this is an extraordinarily dangerous mission," Victoria Clarke, chief spokeswoman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, told reporters today before the combat casualty was disclosed by other officials.
Gen. Franks said at the Tampa news conference that U.S. forces have examined seven of eight abandoned cave complexes in the Tora Bora region, where some believe al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden had been hiding. He said a substantial number of bodies were found in the caves, as well as weapons, including a tank.
U.S. warplanes bombed a suspected al-Qaida base in eastern Afghanistan for the second time in as many days today after coalition observers detected some of Osama bin Laden's forces trying to regroup there, military officials said.
The second strike on the Zawar Kili camp near Khost took place in late morning, after coalition forces detected some activity at the base in the hours following the first strike, Gen. Clarke said.


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