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29 January 2003

Combat Still Occurs in Afghanistan as Iraq Preparations Proceed

(Defense Department Report, January 29: Afghanistan/Iraq) (430)
Even as the Bush administration prepares for possible military action
against Iraq, combat continues to erupt in Afghanistan, Defense
Department officials said January 29.
U.S. Special Forces near Spin Buldak in Afghanistan came under fire on
January 27, according to General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff. Briefing media at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld, Myers said the U.S. forces returned fire and captured
one enemy combatant, through whom they ascertained that an enemy force
was situated in a complex of 30 caves nearby.
Coalition forces, including Afghan National Army forces, attacked the
cave complex that same afternoon. They also called in close air
support, with about 20 precision guided bombs dropped on the caves,
Myers said. A small cache of munitions was found afterward, he added.
No mention was made of casualties on either side. Operations continued
on January 28, with more than 500 coalition forces engaged, he said.
Since there are about 100 more caves in the area, operations will
probably continue for several days, he said.
Myers, responding to a question about a Coast Guard announcement that
eight cutters are being sent to the Persian Gulf, said that their role
would be to provide security for ports, harbors and waterways. He
agreed that part of their mission would be to guard against suicide
boat attacks.
"Clearly, there's a real threat there," Myers said.
Meanwhile, asked whether the United States has proof of ongoing
cheating by Iraq even as the current U.N. inspections occur, Rumsfeld
said the way to approach the issue is over the matter of pre-emption.
"It is difficult for all of us who have grown up in this country and
believed in the principle that unless attacked, one does not attack,"
Rumsfeld said.
"The question, though, is, in the 21st century, with biological
weapons, for example, that could kill hundreds of thousands of people,
what does one do? Does one wait until they're attacked, or does one
look at a pattern of behavior and ... a fact pattern and draw a
conclusion," Rumsfeld asked.
"A biological attack that killed 300,000 or more would affect people's
judgment about whether or not they would prefer that their government
act before the fact," Rumsfeld continued. "And there is no doubt in my
mind but that the overwhelming majority of the American people would
prefer that their government take the kinds of steps necessary to
prevent that type of attack," he said.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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