Occupation troops in big clash with Afghan foes

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue Jan 28 10:32:54 MST 2003

[From "The Washington Post" 28 January 2003]

U.S., Coalition Battling Afghan Rebels
By Mark Kennedy
Associated Press Writer

BAGRAM, Afghanistan [AP]-- U.S. and coalition forces are fighting a
pitched battle against a group of 80 rebels aligned to renegade
leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in the largest-scale fighting since
Operation Anaconda nine months ago, the U.S. military said Tuesday.
At least 18 rebel fighters were killed, and there were no reported
coalition casualties. "It's the largest concentration of enemy forces
since Operation Anaconda," U.S. military spokesman Roger King said
from Bagram Air Base, a reference to fighting in March in eastern
Afghanistan that involved the largest number of American troops in
the Afghan war. American war planes attacked enemy positions with B-1
bombers, F-16s and AC-130 gunships, King said. The fighting in
mountains in southeastern Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan
was triggered by a small shootout nearby in which one man was killed,
one injured and one detained, King said. He said that the detained
man said under questioning that a large group of men had massed in
the mountain areas.

King said the military sent Apache helicopters to the area to
investigate, and they came under small arms fire. The military
responded with a quick-reaction force of fighter aircraft that are
continuing to pound the remote region with 500-pound and 2,000-pound
bombs. He said some of the fighters are dug in caves. King said that
it is believed the rebel fighters, while loyal to Hekmatyar, have
sympathies and possible links to the ousted Taliban and al-Qaida.
Many Taliban and al-Qaida suspects fled into Pakistan following U.S.
bombardment in late 2001. There have been a series of attacks along
Afghan's long border with Pakistan in recent months, including one in
December that resulted in the death of U.S. Army Sgt. Steven Checo.

There have been several other shootouts involving U.S. forces along
the border in recent months, and rockets are routinely fired at U.S.
military bases in eastern Afghanistan, near the border. The rockets
rarely hit their target and injuries from such assaults are unheard
of. U.N. and American forces have expressed concern about renewed
training by al-Qaida and Taliban militants in the mountains of
Afghanistan near the Pakistani border. Operation Anaconda, from March
2 to March 18, was the largest ground operation of the war. Its was
to eliminate Taliban and al-Qaida holdouts in a mountainous area of
southeastern Afghanistan and involved more than 2,000 U.S. and
coalition troops. Seven Americans died.



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