U.S. Forces Find More Weapons in Southeast Afghanistan

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 24, 2002 -- U.S. troops on patrol in Afghanistan have uncovered more hidden weapons, senior DoD officials said here today.

Over the past 24 hours, the troops seized one large hoard of weapons and a second, relatively small one, Air Force Brig. Gen. John W. Rosa Jr. told reporters at a Pentagon news briefing.

The large cache, seized this morning, contained 400 rocket-propelled grenades, 20 cases of land mines and a large quantity of machine gun ammunition, he said. The smaller one included six rocket-propelled grenades and four anti-personnel mines, he added.

Rosa said both caches were seized north of Narizah, a southeastern town near the Afghan-Pakistani border. He commented on the difficulty of determining the previous owners.

"Almost anyplace we go, we find some type of weapons," he said. "These are not the largest and they're not the smallest we've found. But, there are so many it is difficult to say who they belong to." Rosa remarked that DoD and the coalition haven't yet totaled up all the ordnance captured in Afghanistan.

The general mentioned U.S. officials have seen estimates that hundreds of al Qaeda, possibly thousands, still remain in Afghanistan. "It's difficult to put a number on it," he said. "Once they disperse and break up, I don't think anybody knows the true answer."

Lately, U.S. and coalition troops have identified many small pockets of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, DoD spokeswoman Victoria Clarke remarked. "We know they exist and we're going to continue to go after them," she said.

She said senior DoD officials are becoming increasingly concerned about terrorist states that have growing weapons of mass destruction programs. Terrorists, she said, would have no hesitation using WMDs against the United States and its allies.

"It's a very real threat; it is a growing threat," she emphasized.

Discussing the Northern and Southern no-fly zones over Iraq, Rosa noted the frequency of U.S. air attacks on Iraqi targets in the zones is now about the same as it was before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America. So far this year, he said, U.S. and coalition planes have made 14 strikes in the southern zone and eight in the northern zone.

"We're patrolling those no-fly zones and those folks continue to threaten our pilots," he said, adding that the Iraqis in recent years have worked hard to improve their integrated air defense capabilities.

"We've worked hard to make sure that they don't improve them," Rosa pointed out. "And when they threaten coalition pilots, we'll protect ourselves."

Clarke told reporters U.S. troops are providing some security services now for Afghan President Hamid Karzai. This updated a July 22 DoD announcement that security assistance would be given.

In breaking the story July 22, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters Karzai had asked for a U.S. security detail in the wake of recent assassinations of senior officials in his fledgling Afghan government.

The size of the security detail is not set, Rosa said. "We're still working the details of 'who' and 'how many,' and the secretary hasn't signed that order," he said.

Rumsfeld had stressed the aid would be temporary until U.S. and coalition-trained Afghan security personnel could take over. That training hasn't begun yet, Clarke noted.