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Afghanistan: U.S. Ground Forces Destroy Two Targets

Washington, 20 October 2001 (RFE/RL) -- The Pentagon says a first U.S. ground operation in southern Afghanistan early today destroyed two targets. One target was identified as an airfield and the other as a Taliban command-and-control facility. U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Richard Myers, speaking at a news conference in Washington, refused to identify the precise locations of the targets, except to say the airfield was not at Kandahar. He also refused to say how many U.S. troops were involved.

"U.S. military forces conducted ground operations in addition to our air operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Special operation forces, including U.S. Army Rangers, deployed to Afghanistan. They attacked and destroyed targets associated with terrorist activity and Taliban command-and-control. U.S. forces were able to deploy, maneuver, and operate inside of Afghanistan without significant interference from Taliban forces. They are now refitting and repositioning for potential future operations against terrorist targets in other areas known to harbor terrorists."

Myers said U.S. forces were able to bring out what he called "intelligence" which is now being evaluated. He would not specify the nature of the information gathered. He also said two U.S. soldiers were lightly injured when parachuting into southern Afghanistan for the ground operations.

Two other U.S. soldiers were killed when their helicopter crashed in Pakistan while providing search-and-rescue support for the operations. Myers said that crash was an accident.

U.S. President George W. Bush said earlier today that the two soldiers did not die in vain and that Americans should expect what he called "moments of sacrifice."

Also, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said today senior Taliban military commander Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani was in Islamabad this week to meet with Pakistani officials and to discuss a possible broad-based government.

Western news agencies AFP and Reuters cite the spokesman for Pakistan's Foreign Ministry Riaz Mohammad Khan as saying at a news conference today that Haqqani held meetings with Pakistani officials and some Afghan leaders in Pakistan. Khan said, "These meetings and discussions are basically focused on discussions regarding the assessment, future, and prospects of a broad-based government."

However, in an interview printed in the Pakistani newspaper "The News" today, Haqqani said the Taliban are prepared to fight "a neverending war to free Afghanistan again from invaders." Haqqani said Taliban fighters will flee to the mountains and wage a guerrilla campaign if forced from power by U.S. bombing in Afghanistan.