This week marks the end of the first year of the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan. With more on this and with some of the latest developments in America’s war on terrorism, here’s Betty Van Etten.
With American troops continuing operations against al-Qaida and Taleban holdouts in Afghanistan, the commander of coalition forces, U.S. Lieutenant General Dan McNeill, looked back to when it all began.
U.S. LIEUTENANT GENERAL DAN MCNEILL
"I can still see in my mind the articles that were being written, I can hear ringing in my ears the number of experts who were commenting, mostly on the electronic meter, about the dangers, about how that, these were literally invincible fighters and that, what the al-Qaida or Taleban didn't kill of the coalition force, disease would kill. It hasn't exactly happened that way."
As it turned out, with minimal coalition casualties, Afghanistan’s Taleban regime was overthrown, the remnants of the al-Qaida terrorist network scattered into hiding, and a new, more democratic government installed in Kabul. According to General McNeil, the U.S. forces will remain in Afghanistan until their objectives are achieved.
U.S. LIEUTENANT GENERAL DAN MCNEILL
"There has been an elimination of conditions to see a recurrence of terrorist organizations and their ability to train, recruit, train within this country, and so I couldn't tell you that this will all occur by 2004 or 2005 or whenever, I simply don't know what the answer is."
The continued ability of terrorists to strike, even on a small scale, was demonstrated this week after U.S. Marines arrived in Kuwait for scheduled training exercises with Kuwaiti forces. On the offshore island of Failaka, two marines were fired upon by unknown assailants. Pentagon spokesperson Victoria Clarke.
"Both Marines were wounded, and med-evaced to the Armed Forces Hospital in Kuwait City. One Marine later died of his wounds. The other remains hospitalized, and we do not have word on his condition at this time. The two attackers were killed by other Marines."
And off the coast of Yemen, French, Yemeni and U.S. investigators are trying to determine if an explosion aboard a French tanker on Sunday was an accident or an act of terrorism on the high seas. In the U.S., the campaign against terrorism continues unabated. In Washington, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that six people, five of them U.S. citizens, have been charged with trying to wage war against the United States.
“Earlier today, agents of the Portland and Detroit Joint Terrorism Task Forces arrested suspected terrorist cell members charged with engaging in conspiracy to join al-Qaida and to join Taliban forces fighting against the United States and allied soldiers in Afghanistan.”
According to law enforcement sources, the suspects in Portland were actively recruiting others to join the war against Americans in Afghanistan.
On the judicial front in Boston, accused terrorist Richard Reid pleaded guilty to charges of trying to blow up a passenger jetliner. Reid was subdued by passengers and crew of a trans-Atlantic flight after he attempted to set off explosives in his shoes. Michael Sullivan was the federal prosecutor in Reid’s case.
“Reid’s cowardly acts were intended to kill innocent civilians in a fanatical assault on democracy in America. Today, Reid stands convicted of his crimes.”
Reid, a British citizen, is a convert to Islam. He told the court he does not recognize the U.S. justice system and is an enemy of the United States.
And in the state of Virginia, the so-called “American Taleban”, John Walker Lindh, was given a lengthy prison term. U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty:
U.S. ATTORNEY PAUL MCNULTY
“Just one year ago today, John Walker Lindh was a soldier in the Taleban army, assigned to the frontlines in the Taleban’s war against the Northern Alliance. Today, one year later, he stands convicted in a United States court and sentenced to 20 years in a federal prison.”
Speaking to the court, the 20-year-old Lindh accepted full responsibility for serving as a Taleban soldier. U.S. forces in Afghanistan took Lindh into custody in November. In July he pleaded guilty to assisting the Taleban and carrying weapons and explosives. He agreed to cooperate fully with government investigators. In exchange he avoided a sentence of life imprisonment.