Al Qaeda, Taliban Sympathizers Harass U.S. Outposts

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2002 -- Al Qaeda and Taliban sympathizers launched two hit-and-run attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan Dec. 2, DoD officials said today.

There have been no U.S. casualties, the officials said.

In one incident, a U.S. Special Forces detachment based in Jalalabad received automatic weapons fire from about 10 enemy personnel. The U.S. soldiers returned fire. The enemy broke contact in a fighting retreat into the surrounding hills.

Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs responded to a call for air support by dropping flares on the suspect area. U.S. officials in Afghanistan reported the action is still going on.

In another incident, U.S. Special Forces soldiers saw five unidentified persons moving near the perimeter of the Lwara firebase. A U.S. quick reaction force responded and found five rockets. Assisted by helicopter air support, the force chased the enemy into a building, cleared two compounds in the area and detained a person for questioning.

U.S. officials stressed that these and many other similar incidents in recent days illustrate the dangers U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan still face.

President Bush said Dec. 2 during the Pentagon signing ceremony for the 2003 National Defense Authorization Act that U.S. troops are hunting down "a bunch of cold-blooded killers." He said U.S. and coalition forces are uncovering arms caches and continuing to improve stability in Afghanistan. That stability allows U.S. and French specialists the time necessary to train the Afghan national army.

"And while we hunt . the killers down, we'll continue to help the Afghan people as they work to build lives of dignity and lives of security," Bush said. "Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for hijackers and bomb-makers and assassins. Thanks to the United States military, the terrorist training camps are closed. Many terrorists have met their fate in the caves and mountains of Afghanistan. Others are now in custody."

There are 9,000 U.S. personnel stationed in the country. Another 48,000 service members are serving in the U.S. Central Command area of operations. This area stretches from Kenya and Egypt to Kazakhstan and Pakistan.

A total of 36 Americans have died in the conflict in the country.