The U.S. military as well as its allies are planning fresh attacks on several pockets of al Qaeda and Taliban fighters believed to be hiding in the southern and eastern areas of Afghanistan, the U.S. commander of ground operations in the war said Saturday.
Intelligence-gathering planes are focusing on two or three areas "where the al Qaeda and Taliban movements began and where they historically have had support," Army Major General Franklin L. "Buster" Hagenbeck said in an interview at the Bagram air base north of Kabul, according to The Washington Post.
That information will help U.S. and allied make decisions on how to conduct the attacks, Hagenbeck said and added that the alternatives under consideration included an attack conducted mainly by allied Afghan forces, one involving mainly U.S. Special Forces or one consisting only of airstrikes.
However, Hagenbeck refused to discuss when the new round of attacks could possibly start. "I don't feel like a stopwatch is running," he said. But he appeared to indicate that he felt some urgency because of the possibility of an al Qaeda counterattack. "We think that there will be some groups that try to target American and coalition forces, looking for soft targets. . . . We've got to get to them before they get to us."
Meanwhile, he offered some remarks regarding the earlier Operation Anaconda, the 12-day battle close to Shahikot in East Afghanistan. Hagenbeck said the battle inflicted heavy damage on the al Qaeda network in Afghanistan, killed many of its military leaders and destroyed much of its ammunition and other supplies that its members would have to find new ways of equipping themselves.
"I think we've taken out a large chunk of the al Qaeda-Taliban's hard-core, well-trained, experienced veterans. If you want to compare it to a U.S. military unit, I would describe it as . . . their majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels," he said.
Regarding the fate of the two top US targets in Afghanistan, Hagenbeck indicated he has no idea of the whereabouts of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden or Taliban leader Mohammad Omar, "We look countrywide for leaders," he said. But, he added, "other people are tracking that."
He added that he and other military leaders would "be told what we need to know if we have to go" and capture the two fugitives. (Albawaba.com)
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