The United States has deployed regular army troops in the Northern half of Afghanistan to provide security for U.S. military personnel pursuing Osama bin Laden and his allies. The troop presence highlights the continuing danger in areas the Northern Alliance has retaken from the Taleban.
The U.S. soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division are believed to have arrived in Afghanistan several days ago from Uzbekistan. The army unit has had about 1,000 of its soldiers providing security at an airbase near the Uzbek border town of Termez, for the past several weeks.
One group of soldiers is now in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. Another group is at an airbase in Bagram, north of the capital Kabul. The soldiers are described as "quick reaction forces" that can not only provide security, but can help evacuate American personnel in an emergency.
At the Bagram airbase, the soldiers have set up heavily guarded checkpoints and are conducting round-the-clock patrols of the area. Bagram was once a key military base for the Soviet Union during its occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980's.
Sargeant Ray Cordell, spokesman for the 10th Mountain Division, said the United States is planning to use the airfield primarily for coordinating relief flights that will expand delivery of humanitarian supplies. "I want to get Air Force personnel in here within five days and start setting up a way to start bringing in aircraft in here on an even flow," he said. "Now does that mean in five days it is going to actually begin? No, it means that in five days there will be people on the ground to start this happening."
Several hundred U.S. forces have been in Afghanistan for weeks, working with anti-Taleban Northern Alliance forces. Although the Northern Alliance now controls more than half of Afghanistan, many areas are not adequately policed and have become lawless.