U.S to launch troops in southern Afghanistan in search of al Qaeda members

Posted 5:41 p.m. Oct. 31

By Jamie Meltzer
U-WIRE Washington Bureau

Close to two weeks ago, the United States announced it would deploy elite ground troops in Southern Afghanistan, adding a new and significant dimension on the war against terrorism by partially shifting its focus to a land-based campaign.

The Pentagon said the special operations forces would gather intelligence and help to identify places where al Qaeda members may be hiding.

“They’re well burrowed in, and the task is to get the opposition forces moving in a way and helping with targeting so that as they force and put pressure on al Qaeda, and on the Taliban that we’re able to then target them successfully,” Rumsfeld told CNN Oct. 28.

Critics said the introduction of ground forces would add the potential for more casualties on both sides. The Pentagon argues their work is essential.

“We’re taking targeting information from the ground to increasingly greater effect,” Rumsfeld said on CNN. “And it’s having the effect of damaging the Taliban and damaging the al Qaeda military capabilities opposite those forces.”

Students enlisted in the military who have an understanding of special operations forces agreed they are necessary in the present campaign.

“I feel that if we want to see this thing through the end, we have to send in our ground forces,” Le Nguyen, a sophomore at The Citadel told U-WIRE. “It is something we have to do and though I’m not thrilled with my friends going into war, I feel that it should be done.”

The military said it is working diligently to properly train and deploy covert operations to defeat the Taliban and the terrorist networks it supports. Each division of the military has its own special operations teams. The Army, for example, is using its Ranger forcers in Afghanistan. The Navy Seals are another of the military’s key units. “Special Operations soldiers endure the most difficult and arduous training the U.S. government can dish out,” Nguyen said. “They are trained to complete an objective with speed, efficiency, and utmost lethality ten times that of a regular solider.” With the danger of these missions increasing, observers note the government is placing more attention on the strength of its allies.

President George Bush said the American forces were supported “by the collective will of the world.”

Australia has committed close to 2,000 troops and Japan last week said it would offer even more of its military resources. NATO has deployed a naval force. Russia, China, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are sharing intelligence.

The troops Great Britain supplied are considered especially important because British commandos are revered as the most highly trained in the world. They have been used to hunt out guerillas in Northern Ireland and expose war crime suspects in Bosnia in recent years.

Deborah Avant, a professor at George Washington University who specializes in U.S. and European defense policy, said Britain’s forces could be define whether the war is successful.

“Because the mission British troops performed was more like the one the U.S. envisions, many have made the argument that the British could be helpful,” Avant said.

As Britain and other countries contribute more forces, military analysts said it will be important that the United States maintains a sustained campaign and does not burn out the resources of its allies within a few months.

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