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CNN Live Event/Special

Pentagon Press Conference on Afghan Battle

Aired March 05, 2002 - 13:16   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Off to the Pentagon we go for its daily briefing. It was a long one yesterday. We will see what is unfolded here.


VICTORIA CLARKE, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE (PUBLIC AFFAIRS): I'd like to read these names and where they're from. We've got a piece of paper for you.

First, from the Army, Special Marc A. Anderson, 30, of Brandon, Florida. Private First Class Matthew A. Commons, 21, of Boulder City, Nevada. Sergeant Bradley S. Crose, 27, of Orange Park, Florida. Sergeant Philip J. Svitak, 31, of Joplin, Missouri. From the Navy, Aviation Bosenmate Handling Petty Officer First Class Neil C. Roberts, 32, of Woodland, California. And from the Air Force, Tech Sergeant John A. Chapman, 36, of Waco, Texas; and Senior Airman Jason D. Cunningham, 26, of Camarillo, California.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to them and to their families, and we thank them and all the men and women in uniform for what they do every day and for the risks they take.



And let me offer my condolences to the families of the service members who were killed in Afghanistan.

Our focus remains defeating Al Qaeda and the former Taliban forces holed up in the Shahikot region. We believe there's still hundreds of fighters there. We've been able to get into at least one of the cave complexes thus far and we've discovered mortars, rocket- propelled grenade rounds, small arms. And in a different location we found more weapons and ammunition, as well as foreign driver's license and foreign passports.

Since the operation began Friday night, we've expended over 450 bombs, using long-range bombers and tactical aircraft. We've also provided close air support with AC-130 gunships and A-10s.

Let me clear up some questions I believe many of you may have regarding the helicopter incidents that we spoke about yesterday. At approximately 5:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Sunday night, an MH-47 helicopter was hit by an RPG at landing zone while attempting to insert special forces. It was able to lift off, but landed again some distance away after experiencing mechanical problems.

As it was taking off after being hit, an individual fell off. Soon thereafter, a second helo picked up the crew and passengers of the first helo.

A second incident occurred three and a half hours later, at 9 p.m. Eastern Standard time, Sunday night. This helicopter was on a separate mission inserting special forces in the vicinity where the first one was hit. While approaching the landing zone, it was hit by what we believe to be machine-gun fire, as well as a rocket-propelled grenade. The helo either crash landed or experienced a hard landing. I don't want to characterize it either way right now.

When the helo was on the ground, those personnel on the helo exchanged gunfire with the enemy. Six individuals from this helo were killed as a result of this firefight. When we evacuated the site of the second crash, we also found and evacuated the man who fell off the first helicopter.

So the number of killed in action overall for Operation Anaconda stands at eight, one from Saturday night, Chief Warrant Officer Harriman, and from Sunday night we have the sailor who fell off the first helo and the six soldiers and airmen from the second incident.

The current number of wounded stands at more than 40; however, 18 have returned to duty.

Today we have several videos of strikes in support of Operation Anaconda.

The first two videos are from operations on Sunday, the 3rd of March. There were strikes by F-16s on dug-in Al Qaeda fighting positions. In the first you can see the dug-in positions of adversary forces. And the second you can see the adversary positions set within the rugged terrain.

The third video is of an F-14 strike from yesterday. It's on a mortar position that was engaging friendly forces. As you can see, the building housing the mortar and a truck were hit by two weapons.

QUESTION: What was the building?

ROSA: I'm not sure what that building is.

In general, you can see from these videos that our operations are ongoing in various terrain features, from mountainous to foothills and valleys and in open valleys with structures.

And with that, we'll take your questions.

QUESTION: General, have you any indication -- Afghan forces are saying in the region that while the fighting is very fierce, that the U.S.-led forces are pressing the attack on the ground now. And apparently the Afghan -- some of the resistance has waned some, that it might be have been softened up. Can you give us a picture of that, whether -- are you pressing the attack on the ground now? And is there any indication that there has been some softening up, some ease in the resistance?

ROSA: It's just the opposite. We have been calculating, this is a very deliberate attack. We maintain the initiative on our terms and our pace. After a heavy night of bombing, yes, I would say we are softening up in certain portions, but there's still a lot of work to be done. We're far from over.

QUESTION: But are you pressing the attack on the ground today as you have...

ROSA: We are and we have been, and we'll continue.

CLARKE: You know, I'd add on pressing very hard. If you want a characterization of our posture on this, it is very aggressive and very forward leaning.

QUESTION: Have there been any additional casualties, either Afghan or allied or American?

ROSA: None have been reported.

QUESTION: (inaudible) U.S. soldiers were killed, do you know what kind of damage they did to the people they were fighting?

ROSA: We're still piecing it together. And to give you a specific number of how many killed or wounded, I really don't have the information.

QUESTION: And that was -- it's out of how many were in the group who went...

ROSA: I'd rather not say. They came in from two helicopters, and if I've told you that then we would know exactly how many folks were carried and on each helicopter.

QUESTION: How many were wounded when the six were killed?

CLARKE: I have not seen any breakouts...

ROSA: I don't think we break it down that way.

CLARKE: Well, we have an overall number of the wounded, approximate number of the wounded. I have not seen it broken out according to incidents.

ROSA: Just from that incident.

QUESTION: Well, could you tell us what happened after the firefight, and how long it took to get those forces extracted in the rescue?

ROSA: OK. We're talking about the second incident? The 9 p.m.?


ROSA: Actually there were two helicopters associated with that. They were flying in a two-ship formation. When the first helicopter took the hit and could not get airborne, those forces dispersed. The second helicopter dispersed its forces and egressed. It was sometime thereafter that we initiated a rescue operation and extracted -- took out all the folks on the ground there.

QUESTION: General Franks indicated that that extraction took quite some time. It sounded like it was maybe 12, 14 hours later. Is that correct?

ROSA: I don't have the exact time, but it was quite a time. But we have to -- when you're going to go do a rescue operation, things have to be just right. You have to be very careful because you'd have another one or two helicopters down. But that was a very successful operation; we got everybody out.

QUESTION: Was that an Air Force operation?

ROSA: I think so, but I'd have to check for you.

QUESTION: General, can you explain why these helicopters went in at that time in a hot landing zone without air cover?

ROSA: Well, we don't know that they didn't have air cover.

QUESTION: Did they have air cover?

ROSA: I'm not sure if they had air cover or not. But when you get down to the tactical level, and you're questioning the tactical commander from back here in Washington, we just don't want to get into that.

But that tactical commander made the decision to land those helicopters in those landing zone. In combat, you can never be sure that you're risk-free, and that the landing zones will be completely free. Since that time, we've made several infils and exfils, and have had quite a bit of success.

QUESTION: Has something changed as a result of this operation as far as how we're getting people in there?

ROSA: I think the biggest thing that changed, and not to be flip, is we killed a lot of people. We killed people. They're not roaming around freely like they were. They're dug in. They're hunkered in. We've got a simultaneous attack at times with air from the U.S. and coalition forces. But I think it's tougher on them right now and they're not moving quite as freely.

QUESTION: In the 9 p.m. incident with the two helicopters that came down, were both of those ultimately able to take off, or were one or both of those still on the ground?

ROSA: One helicopter stayed there.

QUESTION: What about the other one? The one that had the mechanical problem? The first incident?

ROSA: That airplane egressed, left the area, and landed eventually due to mechanical problems some time away.

QUESTION: Right, but is that still on the ground?

ROSA: I don't know. I don't know if we've been able to fix the airplane and get it out, but it was out of enemy action.

QUESTION: Then it was a fairly safe area, which is why they were able to stay there for a couple of hours while they waited for...

ROSA: I believe so.

QUESTION: Was this mechanical problem as a result of the fire, or do we know?

ROSA: You're talking about the ground fire?

QUESTION: Right. The helicopter that landed some distance away, was the mechanical problem caused by having taken hostile fire, or some other...

ROSA: We suspect it was due to hostile fire.

QUESTION: Could you both provide, sort of, a picture for the American public of the difficulties that people are -- that troops are facing in this battle?

And also I understand that the commanders were seeing a video of this firefight as it was going on -- a bloody firefight. Can you give a description of what's happening out there for the U.S. forces, so that they can understand all of this and describe this bloody firefight?

CLARKE: I'll start and you can finish.


CLARKE: Two important points; we have always said that the further this went on, the harder it would get. The people who are left fighting, the Al Qaeda, are among the toughest, the most violent, the most committed to fighting this out to the end. So we always knew it would get extremely difficult.

Then you add into that the conditions, the terrain, in which they are. We saw a map of it yesterday. It's extraordinarily difficult. High altitudes in many cases. The weather, it is very, very cold. So they are operating under extremely difficult conditions. But as I said, they are forward leaning and they are approaching this very aggressively.

ROSA: As I've been able to travel around the world, one of the things that always amazes other countries when they talk about our services in the United States is the training and the caliber of our enlisted force. You know, side-by-side officers and enlisted folks are flying (ph) both in the air and on the ground.

But I will tell you that, as I think the chairman yesterday described, this is like fighting in the middle of the Rocky Mountains in the wintertime. It's tough. We have members of the 101st, the members of the 10th Mountain. They are trained in cold weather, and they're doing a fantastic job.

QUESTION: Can you give the American people a sense of what's really like there? Can you give a better description of the terrain and also the bloody firefight, just to give them a sense of what the difficulties is that they're facing?

ROSA: I guess, being an airmen, the closest I've come to ground combat is a live firefight that I got to witness in a demonstration at Fort Bragg. And I can tell you, in my 29 years, that was probably the single most impressive display of firepower I've seen from helicopters overhead, troops on the ground. The noise is absolutely incredible. Everybody on nightvision goggles, blacked out. You don't see anything. But I can tell you that the noise and the tracers and the coordination to fire, shoot and maneuvers is absolutely amazing.

QUESTION: I want to make sure -- Central Command, last night, seemed to indicate that after the soldier fell out of the helicopter, a second helicopter picked up the first helicopter's crew and went back, essentially, to retrieve the soldier.

ROSA: Is this the first incident?

QUESTION: Yes. I'm trying to understand how that, sort of, fits together with what you were saying, where you seem to be talking about two helicopters going back and inserting troops. Was that actually a retrieval mission for the person who fell out, or was that a whole separate...

ROSA: OK. That's a good question. There are two separate incidents here with two helicopters apiece. There's a total of four helicopters.

The incident you're referring to is the one that happened around 5:30 Eastern Standard Time. They went in as a two-ship, took the ground fire, both aircraft egressed. They went back out. And when the aircraft was forced to land because of mechanical problems, some distance away, the other crew, the other airplane picked up all the folks and passengers, flew them to a safe zone, dropped off the air crew. And now they went back to that same general area to try and find the soldier that was missing, and also to re-establish and reinsert that special tactics team.

QUESTION: Then walk us through the second set of helicopters.

ROSA: OK. The second set of helicopters at 9 o'clock came in. The first one took ground fire, and that's where the machine gun or the rocket-propelled grenade hit it. It either did a hard landing -- and again we didn't want to characterize that as a crash or a hard landing. Those folks dispersed. That airplane could not fly.

The other airplane dropped its folks off and egressed. That helicopter that took the RPG-7 and machine-gun fire stayed there. Those folks dispersed through the night, and that's the folks out of that helicopter that we rescued.

QUESTION: Fifth helicopter then came in and rescued...

ROSA: I think there may have been one or two that did the rescue.

QUESTION: So which troops were killed in the firefight? Which of these four helicopters put out the troops that were killed in the firefight?

ROSA: The sailor in the first firefight was killed in that event. There were six out of the second one at 9 o'clock.

QUESTION: The six that were killed, they were not actually going back to get the first sailor.

ROSA: No. Those are the folks that were...

QUESTION: Were being inserted?

ROSA: They egressed off of that helicopter.

QUESTION: But they did retrieve his body?

ROSA: Yes, they did.

QUESTION: Who did?

ROSA: The second set -- the second team that came in also went over to the other site.

QUESTION: And both these incidents are essentially the same spot?

ROSA: They are separated by some distance.

QUESTION: Can you be more specific as to how much?

ROSA: By a few miles.

QUESTION: So when they went in -- I'm sorry, just geographically, it sounds like they went into the same place, because if they found the guy that fell out the first time...

ROSA: But the rescue within a few miles, once they -- remember now, we went back in. The second helicopter from the first incident went back in and inserted that team. So, that team was on the ground fighting and they recovered the body.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea from what altitude he fell?


QUESTION: (inaudible) sent into this battle or are there plans to do so now, and if so will this be an increase in the number? Or because of altitude and cold, are you having to rotate troops out faster than expected?

ROSA: In any combat scenario, you're going to rotate folks in and out. I can tell you that the numbers -- the total numbers of folks that General Franks spoke to yesterday have not changed significantly.

QUESTION: But your fighting the climate and the altitude is prompting some early rotation?

ROSA: I wouldn't characterize it as early rotation. We will rotate, and the way we fight, we rotate -- we move people where need to move them according to the threat and the terrain. So I think it's going as we had it planned.

CLARKE: This is from Admiral (inaudible): Where the six were killed they have 11 injured. So we do have that one incident broken out.

QUESTION: Do you have any estimate of how many prisoners have been taken, or is it virtually none, number one?

CLARKE: I think it was virtually -- I have not seen any numbers at all.

ROSA: Early on, I think General Franks spoke to two or three that we had detained. But those ended up being from the friendly forces.

QUESTION: One of the provincial governors said that Al Qaeda had come into this area more than a month ago and basically bought a village. And they told the people to leave. They laid down a fair amount of money on this village that apparently is central to some of the combat. Do you know anything about that? Is that so? Does that square with any intel...

ROSA: No. I have heard nothing.

QUESTION: And has there been any indication of any high level of leadership, other than the fact that these guys are fighting and there's a lot of them, in this area?

CLARKE: I've not seen that either.

ROSA: As the secretary said yesterday, we don't know if they are there or they're not there.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that most of the American forces who were based in Kandahar have, in fact, been shifted now to Bagram air base as a backup for this operation? And secondly, can you comment on reports coming from the field that additional Afghan forces are being inserted into the fight? CLARKE: Let me take a shot at this and then you can correct what I screw up.

We are trying very hard to put out as much information as we can with all the concerns given that this is an ongoing operation.

And so we're trying to give you approximate numbers and approximate directions, those sorts of things, without painting a very clear picture. And so we start to break up exactly how many of this type and exactly where did they come from and the mix, we're trying hard not to do.

But we are working closely with coalition forces, as we have before, and we're working closely with Afghan forces. I don't think -- unless you want to overrule me on this -- we want to start talking about exactly how many are where.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Bagram air base on the record, an American spokesman has said this, and I'm just trying to get your feed on this.

ROSA: Folks move, and General Franks in that Central Command moves folks back and forth all the time. The movement that you're talking about I really don't know. But I can tell you that, without getting any kind of permission from certainly up here, General Franks moves those forces where he needs them in the theater. And I agree with Torie, to characterize how many and where I think would be inappropriate.

QUESTION: And the reports about additional Afghan forces being inserted into the fight?

CLARKE: We're working very closely with Afghan forces. I have not seen any signs of more or less. Just haven't. We're working very, very closely with them, they're playing a very important role. I haven't seen anything about numbers changing.

QUESTION: But one of the local commanders, in fact, is reporting that there has been progress made toward this hub village in the last 24 hours.

ROSA: What you may be hearing is that at one point in time, when the primarily Afghan forces got their vehicles shot up early on, they backed off, but since that time they've come back. And in a battle like this we're going to ebb and flow. There's going to be forces brought up to the front, back to resupply, refit, and it's, kind of, a synchronized plan.

QUESTION: Sir, based on the ferocity of the fighting and your knowledge of the motivation of all the fighters you're facing, do you expect many prisoners, if any, or are you from a planning standpoint assuming this is going to be a fight to the finish and victory will be largely defined by the number of bodies you carry out of there or bury?

ROSA: That's really up to the enemy. They always have the opportunity to surrender. I have heard, I think was spoken yesterday from this podium, that the enemy has decided to stay and fight.

QUESTION: Have you seen anything in the late 24 hours to indicate a shift that there may be pockets of surrender?


QUESTION: People surrendering?

ROSA: No. We have no reports of that.


ROSA: The way it looks right now.

QUESTION: Torie and General Rosa, do you have any home bases for the U.S. soldiers killed?

CLARKE: I do not. But we're going to have a little piece of paper for you with the names and locations. And we'll see if we can get those.

QUESTION: Including their home bases.

CLARKE: We will try.

QUESTION: General, could you explain why -- in these helicopter incidents, why after the first episode when helicopters were taking ground fire, why additional helicopters would go into that same LZ, which appeared to be pretty hot at the time?

ROSA: In the first instance -- again, I don't want to question tactical commanders -- but there was an American, for whatever reason, was left behind. And we don't leave Americans behind.

QUESTION: But the second set of helicopters or the third set -- I'm a little bit confused about that -- but the final two helicopters that went in, in which the one was forced to make a hard or crash landing, whatever that was, and the six were killed, why would they -- because they were not apparently directly involved in the rescue effort -- and why would they, brought into that hot landing zone area at a time when it was quite obvious that other helicopters that had been in there were taking heavy fire? ROSA: Well, first of all, again, I don't want to question those commanders, and I'm not sure of all the circumstances. But I can tell you that those two LZs were separated by distance. And as I had spoke earlier, there's no way with perfect intelligence that you can tell that there's never going to be a ground fire. And we were inserting at that time with special forces teams that we needed to get inserted.

QUESTION: General, there was some question yesterday about whether there were six or seven killed from that second helicopter. Does that mean that one of those crew members or one of the soldiers was very seriously wounded? And are there -- of the 40 or so wounded, can you tell us how many are seriously wounded?

CLARKE: I think all it means is that, as we say all the time, this information, particularly when the operation is continuing, is very difficult to get hard and fast information. We're trying very hard to maintain the balance of getting out what we can, being as accurate as possible.

But you all know better than we do, first reports are always wrong, so we got to more solid ground as we got to it.

ROSA: And of the 40, I'm not sure how many are critically or the status of those 40.

QUESTION: Just one final detail on that helicopter thing: In the first set -- the special forces team that went down on the ground and retrieved the body in the one landing zone, were they evacuated with the second set of people?

ROSA: Yes, they were.

QUESTION: So that's how that man's body was -- the sailor's body was recovered, is they had him, and they met up with the rescue team that was in there to get out the folks from the second set of helicopters?

ROSA: And that is the way I understand it.

QUESTION: Have any other thermobaric bombs have been dropped or any other special weapons?

ROSA: To my knowledge, there have been no other special weapons dropped.

CLARKE: I have an update on detainees. This just in from CENTCOM. Since the operation started, one was identified -- I can't read this writing -- identified and released. Four remain under coalition control. So we have four detainees at this time.

QUESTION: The six soldiers who were killed, which helicopter did they come out of?

ROSA: They came out one of the two helicopters that were in the second insertion.

QUESTION: The one that was 9:00 at night?

QUESTION: The one that was hit or the one that was...

QUESTION: Or possible both.

ROSA: I don't know if they all came out of that one helicopter or not. Remember there were two helicopters that went in there.

QUESTION: Can you describe this complex: how much of it is above ground, how much underground, how extensive are the caves? Does it compare with the Tora Bora region? Are they highly developed caves, complexes like they were there?

ROSA: I cannot. I would tell you that most of those caves that we've gone into and sensitive site exploitations have been complex facilities. But I can't characterize that in this area. We simply haven't been in -- and I don't know -- the room that we went into, I'm not sure of the complexity.

QUESTION: Just a clarification on the forces. Yesterday, General Franks who had a map and it showed the Afghan fores on the outside of his blue circle there. Is it still that the Afghans are providing this blocking move on the outside, or containment or whatever you want to call it, and the U.S. forces are doing the fighting on the inside of that circle? Is that what we're trying to do?

ROSA: I think the map that the general put up yesterday is still accurate. There are blocking forces. The Afghanis are still where you saw them. The one thing that is different, as I talked about the fluidity of the battle, there will be folks that are in contact that are part of the coalition and they'll be out. But I think the map that you saw yesterday is still an accurate depiction.

QUESTION: So the Afghans are on the outside, and the U.S. is doing the fighting for the most part?

ROSA: That would be wrong. There are Afghans where you saw those pictures yesterday in blocking positions, but they're also Afghans engaged in combat.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) movement to contact yesterday on Afghan forces?

ROSA: Again, they move in and out as the battle goes.

QUESTION: What about the troops from allied nations? General Franks, yesterday, had this list of countries -- Australia, Canada, France, Germany -- and it indicated that they have commandos there, or troops of some kind. Can you just describe in general terms what role they're playing?

CLARKE: We've probably said everything we feel comfortable saying at this time about what they're doing. And the secretary said we've all said...


CLARKE: They're playing with very important roles in the overall war on terrorism. They're playing a very important role in this particular operation.

But it really is up to them to decide how they want to characterize specific things they might be involved in.

QUESTION: Things that you have found in caves, General, tells you what about the people that you are fighting against?

ROSA: It tells me they're well-armed. It tells me they've got good defensive fighting positions. The foreign passports and driver's license -- you can probably draw your own conclusions there. But it's not atypical from what we've seen in the past.

QUESTION: U.S. driver's licenses?

CLARKE: Let's make that the last question.


ROSA: I don't know.

QUESTION: On the cave thing, did you fight your way in or was it a cave that was abandoned?

ROSA: I don't know that.

CLARKE: And last one.

QUESTION: Slightly different subject on the international security force that's operating under British control. Torie, I have a question for you on that. What is Secretary Rumsfeld's view on expanding that numerically and geographically inside Afghanistan?

CLARKE: He's spoken to it a couple times from up here, I think. We are working closely with the coalition partners, most importantly with the Afghan interim government, to figure out what is the best way ahead to help them achieve the kind of internal stability and security they need. They're looking at a wide range of options, including the ISAF, including how do you expedite the creation of the Afghan national army. But it's an active conversation, discussion, work in progress right now.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) on whether that's a good way to go.

CLARKE: He thinks having a very active discussion and deliberation of what's the best approach is the right way to go. And that's actually what is going on right now.

QUESTION: But the question of whether to expand it or not, he hasn't expressed a view on that?

CLARKE: He expresses his views privately.

QUESTION: Not publicly.

CLARKE: What he says publicly happens to be the truth, which is, it's very good to have a very active conversation, very active dialogue going on with all the appropriate people to figure out what's the best way forward, what's the right combination. That's what they're doing.

QUESTION: He and Crouch and other people in this building indicated early on that they weren't hot on the idea of expanding this force into cities all over Afghanistan, because it might get in the way of pressing the war. Has he changed that attitude at all?

CLARKE: He has always made clear the importance of keeping our military objectives first and foremost, and we continue to maintain that. But it it's not an either/or situation. One of our military objectives also is to keep Afghanistan from returning to be a safe haven, a free-ranging field, if you will, for terrorists.

So helping them achieve some internal security and stability will help us achieve one of our military objectives.

QUESTION: A federal judge has passed down an opinion that the Army's promotion system for officers is unconstitutional because it discriminates against white males. A, does the Pentagon think that this judge has jurisdiction? And does the Pentagon have any, sort of, response to that?

CLARKE: I am aware of the decision. I am not steeped in at all. So we would be happy to get a lawyer to talk to you about it. But with everything else going on, I just have not been able to dig in.

Thank you.

HEMMER: Clearly, Operation Anaconda does continue. The numbers are holding firm now: eight dead as a result of the operation that began late Friday night, Afghanistan time, right along the border there with Pakistan. More than 40 wounded we are told also, based on that briefing, 18 of whom have returned to combat, returned to duty there.

We are told through the Pentagon there is still a lot of work to do, Victoria Clarke indicating that the posture right now is aggressive and forward leaning. You heard from Brig. Gen. John Rosa in his words: quote -- we killed a lot of people, indicating that the enemy in this case -- the al Qaeda fighters, the Taliban fighters, apparently have suffered extensive casualties.

He also says the fighting in that high altitude terrain is similar to, and using his words, fighting in the middle of the Rocky Mountains in the middle of winter. He describe the al Qaeda fighters as well trained in these elements and, certainly, well dug in, in his words.

They showed some video as well. We will run those clips again for you. These are areas described near the Paktia Province area, near the town of Gardez. One of the videoclips here is described as a compound in which two bombs are dropped -- not this one, but probably the next one that pops up, you will see it: two different bombs go off in two different locations, one hitting a truck and one hitting a compound.

A lot of other questions too about the al Qaeda leadership. This has come up in virtually every form of conflict dating back to the 7th of October. It'll be five months on Thursday of this week. Here is the compound right here. Asked about whether al Qaeda leadership was there, the answer was not sure, do not know. No reports of a surrender there.

Again, as I mentioned, well dug in and well armed they described the al Qaeda fighters there in eastern Afghanistan.