View Full Version : Terror hunt in Horn of Africa produced results, U.S. says

05-03-03, 03:17 PM
May 02, 2003

Terror hunt in Horn of Africa produced results, U.S. says

By Robert Burns
Associated Press

U.S. forces working with friendly governments in the Horn of Africa have captured members of the al-Qaida terrorist network, a senior U.S. officer said Friday.
It was the first public disclosure that the anti-terror hunt in that impoverished region — including Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti and Yemen — had yielded results.

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong, the deputy commander of Central Command, did not reveal any names but said the people captured in recent months were not among the terror network’s most senior.

“We have picked up al-Qaida members in those countries,” DeLong said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from his office at Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla. He said the successes had been kept “low key” at the request of the local governments.

DeLong did not say how many people had been captured or name the countries in which they were taken.

“Not the very highest rank,” was his description of the members of the organization led by Osama bin Laden. He said military operations over the past six months had captured “medium-level al-Qaida in three or four or five of the countries there.”

A main military focus of the global war on terrorism has been Afghanistan, particularly in recent months along the porous border with Pakistan. But since the fall of the Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the U.S. military has given more attention to finding remnants of al-Qaida in and around the Horn of Africa.

Marine Corps Gen. John Sattler, a two-star, is running the operation, formally called Task Force Horn of Africa, from the amphibious command ship Mount Whitney in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Djibouti. There are about 400 people aboard the ship, including liaison officers from countries in the region. About 900 U.S. troops are based ashore at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti.

DeLong said governments in the region had been extremely helpful in the hunt for al-Qaida. He said he could not predict how long the Horn of African operation would continue but that Central Command intended to go ahead with plans to move the task force’s headquarters ashore in Djibouti in the next month or so.

DeLong and his staff in Tampa have focused largely on the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan while Gen. Tommy Franks, the head of Central Command, has been running the Iraq war.

The 9,000 American troops in Afghanistan may be there for another year or two, DeLong said, and now that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has declared major combat operations over, more countries are expressing interest in joining in reconstruction projects with local Afghan communities.

DeLong painted a mostly upbeat picture of progress, though many Afghans still say that their nation is overrun by thieving warlords, that security in the countryside is weak and that the government of President Hamid Karzai is limited to Kabul, the capital, which is protected by 5,000 international peacekeepers.

The keys to rebuilding Afghanistan and preventing its return to a terrorist haven include civil affairs teams that are moving across the country to help restore basic services, reopen schools, train teachers and instill a sense of confidence about the future, DeLong said.

The first of what the Pentagon calls Provincial Reconstruction Teams has been functioning in Gardez since February. The key to its success, DeLong said, has been the inclusion of Afghan soldiers who are part of an emerging national army trained by U.S. and French troops.

“The people of Gardez had never seen a national Afghan force before, and so they related with them,” he said. “They became sort of the center of gravity because they were comfortable to have, quote, their own soldiers, around.”

Another key to eventually enabling U.S. forces to leave Afghanistan is developing the national army to such a level of professionalism, authority and competence that it is respected by the provincial warlords who have held sway for decades, he said.

The goal is to reach a point where “the warlords see that the people of Afghanistan like their national army and don’t need provincial armies around,” he said. Also key to success is the German effort to train an Afghan police force and Italy’s work on rebuilding an Afghan judicial system.

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press