Military officials have decided it's time to wrap up the searches of the massive Zawar Kili cave complex in eastern Afghanistan and go after targets elsewhere in the country.
"It's now time to go look elsewhere," Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem, deputy director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday.
In recent days, the Zawar Kili caves had been the focus of intense U.S. aerial strikes that have closed the entrances to dozens of the caverns. U.S. military officials believe the complex was being used as a staging post on the way to Pakistan by al Qaeda and Taliban networks. Precision-guided munitions from B-52 and B-1 bombers, as well as carrier-based F-18s, destroyed the buildings and sealed the caves, Stufflebeem said.
In an interview with ABCNEWS anchor Peter Jennings, Powell refused to say where U.S. forces would strike next in the war on terrorism. But Powell stressed that the Bush administration was not targeting specific countries — such as Somalia, Yemen, or the Philippines — but terrorist networks themselves.
"Rather than look for a specific country to go after, we're going after terrorism," Powell said. "We're going to go after terrorism wherever it is located. … In many of those instances, for example, Indonesia and the Philippines, they are concerned about their own home-grown terrorists and we will work with them to try to deal with the threat."
Powell also said U.S. military trainers would help the Philippine government and its armed forces to deal with terrorists who threaten both the interests of the Philippines and the United States.
Philippine deputy chief of staff for education and training Brig. Gen. Emmanuel Teodosio announced today that he and Brig. Gen. Donald Wurster, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, will oversee military exercises in the island nation focused on wiping out Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim extremist group linked to al Qaeda.
The exercises will involve 600 U.S. and 1,200 Philippine soldiers, and American personnel will be allowed be allowed to visit the front lines as observers, according to the Philippine official.
Afghan Warlord Supports Interim Government
Afghan Deputy Defense Minister Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek warlord with a history of switching sides, pledged his loyalty today to the interim Afghan government he initially criticized. Last month, Dostum took credit for the defeat of the Taliban in the region, but declared his opposition to the proposed provisional government of Hamid Karzai because he felt that his faction had not been treated fairly during talks in Bonn, Germany. Before his appointment as deputy defense minister, he had threatened to boycott the interim government.
Dostum has softerned his stance since then and today pledged his unconditional support for the interim Afghan government at a press conference. Still, he said Afghanistan would ultimately need to give power to regional leaders while it rebuilds from 22 years of war.
As Dostum pledged his support, the U.N. Security Council unanimously voted to lift a 1999 international ban in Ariana Afghan Airlines, Afghanistan's airline, and unfreeze its financial assets. The Security Council's decision was based on the routing of Taliban leadership and its replacement by the interim Afghan government. The decision will release Ariana's $23 million in assets to the interim government.
American Reportedly Kidnapped in Afghanistan
In other developments: