|Coalition, Afghan Forces Attack Al Qaeda-Taliban Enclave|
Coalition, Afghan Forces Attack Al Qaeda-Taliban Enclave
By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service.
Washington D.C. -- (AFPS) March 3, 2002 -- A U.S. soldier and three Afghan fighters have been killed in heavy fighting south of the Afghan city of Gardez, U.S. Central Command officials reported today.
Defense officials said Afghan and coalition forces have been attacking a concentration of Al Qaeda and non-Afghan Taliban forces. Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. John Rosa said Mar. 1 that a few hundred Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters were using the area to regroup.
An unspecified number of U.S. and Afghan forces have been injured in the operation. There is no word on Al Qaeda or Taliban casualties.
Pentagon officials said the attacking force is primarily Afghan, but that coalition military forces are also involved. U.S. special operations and conventional troops are part of the coalition forces.
Coalition air strikes continue. Aircraft have dropped more than 80 bombs on the Al Qaeda-Taliban concentration, including a laser-guided "thermobaric" bomb on a cave complex. If effective, the modified fuel-air explosive would have "vacuumed" the air from the complex. It is too early to say if the bomb worked, Central Command officials said.
The battle near Gardez is the largest in Afghanistan since the assault on the Tora Bora cave complex in December. The fight is in a snow-covered, mountainous area with elevations running from 8,200 feet to 11,500.
The operation against the Al Qaeda concentration began March 1. Afghan Generals Zia, Kamal Khan Zadran and Zakim Khan are leading their forces in the main effort.
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