- The Washington Times - Friday, July 12, 2002

The United States set up a unit of its most elite special-operations troops early in the war on terrorism with the prime mission of hunting down senior members of the Taliban regime and al Qaeda network, including Osama bin Laden.
Named Task Force 11, the unit comprises several hundred Navy SEALs and Army Delta Force soldiers from the Joint Special Operations Command in North Carolina. The command is a base for the nation's most skilled covert warriors, whose anti-terrorism training and tactics are highly classified.
As al Qaeda and Taliban forces have ceased massing after their disastrous defeat in Operation Anaconda in March, the role of Task Force 11 has grown in importance. The fighters still loyal to the ousted Taliban regime are attempting to disappear in the villages and mountains of south-central Afghanistan near Kandahar. Members of the al Qaeda network, bin Laden's terror group, have largely left Afghanistan to roam in small groups in Pakistan. It is Task Force 11's job to attack them on the ground.
"They are the best," said one U.S. official, who discussed the unit in general terms on the condition of anonymity. "They are going after high-value targets."
Asked at the White House yesterday about this stage of the war in Afghanistan, Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said, "There remains danger in Afghanistan. And as the president said at the very beginning of this battle last October, this will be a war that's going to go in various phases, some of which will be visible; some will not."
In Afghanistan, Task Force 11 tries to be invisible, working in small units, and also with other larger forces, to conduct reconnaissance and raids on Taliban hide-outs. The group has had successes and some failures.
The military's first raid on Oct. 19 on the compound of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar involved elements of Task Force 11. Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other senior Pentagon officials say U.S. forces did not expect to find Mullah Omar, who remains at large in Afghanistan today.
But senior military officers say privately that intelligence information had placed Mullah Omar at the compound and that there was an expectation he would be there during the time of the raid. He was not.
Elements of Task Force 11 are currently in south-central Afghanistan, where the last senior leaders of the former Taliban regime are believed to be in hiding.
The United States began a substantial operation last month to find a top Taliban military leader north of Kandahar in Uruzgan province. The mission was marred July 1 when an AC-130 gunship fired on anti-aircraft artillery positions and accidentally killed civilians. The Taliban officer eluded capture.
Task Force 11 also has helped Pakistani troops conduct raids in the western part of the country, a generally lawless area where members of the al Qaeda network, including bin Laden, are believed to be hiding.
Sources were not clear on whether the task force has taken a direct role in any raids in Pakistan. But they say the unit has provided support in such areas as tactics and intelligence collection.
The task force includes commandos who specialize in monitoring enemy communications at close range. They have passed the information on to the Pakistanis to help them identify villages and compounds that hold al Qaeda members.
Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) oversees the supersecret Delta Force and SEAL Team Six from a walled-off compound at Pope Air Force Base, which borders Fort Bragg, N.C., home of Army Special Operations Command and the Green Berets.
JSOC is under the command of Army Maj. Gen. Del Dailey, an ex-member of the 800-strong Delta Force. Gen. Dailey personally briefed President Bush on JSOC missions in Afghanistan before the war began Oct. 7. The two-star general has split his time between Pope and the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater.
Within JSOC, the commandos work in special-missions units. They train for a wide variety of scenarios, including securing nuclear weapons in a foreign land and rescuing hostages.
They train for strike operations, reconnaissance missions in enemy territory and intelligence collection.
Military officials say it is likely that JSOC is training to insert commandos inside Iraq to seize its chemical and biological weapons before they could be used on American troops.

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