Sunday, August 20, 2006
U.S. Forces Still Taking Fight to Taliban in Afghanistan, Military Spokesman Says
By Steven Donald Smith
WASHINGTON, Aug. 20, 2006 – Two engagements with Taliban extremists in Afghanistan yesterday demonstrate that the U.S. continues to take the fight to the enemy, a U.S. military spokesman said today. In the first engagement, three U.S. soldiers died and three others were wounded when a coalition combat patrol engaged a group of Taliban extremists with small-arms and artillery fire after being struck by a makeshift bomb yesterday.
Elsewhere, U.S. forces engaged about 150 extremists in a firefight that lasted nearly four hours in Uruzgan province. A U.S. airman died in this fight. Early reports indicate that the enemy suffered significant losses, officials said. "These two incidents point out a few things," said Army Col. Thomas Collins, a Combined Forces Command Afghanistan spokesman. "First, it makes clear that the United States will continue to maintain forces throughout this country, working closely with the Afghan National Security Forces in maintaining a counter-terrorism mission."
The second point is that the U.S. is seeing an increase in Taliban activity because coalition operations are taking the fight to the extremists and placing pressure on their sanctuaries and disrupting their movements, he said. "The enemy, of course, will contest this, and they are fighting back," he said. "In the end, we will continue to push them back and reduce their ability to carry out further attacks all with a purpose of enabling the security Afghanistan needs to rebuild into a society where terrorists can't flourish."
About 1,000 members of the coalition are serving with NATO in the southern Afghanistan, primarily out of Kandahar Air Base providing logistics and aviation support, Collins said. NATO eventually will take over command and control responsibility for all of Afghanistan, and a significant part of the NATO force will be U.S. troops, he said.
"Separate and distinct from the NATO mission, the United States has three of what we call enduring missions conducted under the authority of Operation Enduring Freedom," he said. "One is to conduct counterterrorism operations anywhere in the country."
The second mission is to help train and support the Afghan National Army, and the third is to contribute to the overall reconstruction going on throughout Afghanistan, he said. Collins said Taliban fighters use insurgent techniques because they are not capable of engaging coalition forces in direct military operations. "It's not like they are mounting an offensive that's sweeping through the south," he said. "There are these very localized attacks that give the impression of an offensive."