WASHINGTON ---U.S. operations in Afghanistan continued to focus on emerging targets and supporting opposition forces, Pentagon Spokeswoman Victoria Clarke told reporters this morning.
She said 153 aircraft sorties struck "largely around Kandahar."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard Myers left Washington this morning to visit U.S. Central Command Headquarters in Tampa, Fla. Clarke said Rumsfeld planned to meet with CENTCOM Commander Army Gen. Tommy Franks and also wanted to thank staffers for their diligence in the war on terrorism.
"One of the main reasons the secretary wanted to go is to show his appreciation for the people at CENTCOM headquarters who have been working so hard," Clarke said. Central Command is responsible for operations in the Middle East and Southwest and Central Asia. This includes all the activity in and around Afghanistan.
The five American service members injured in a friendly- fire incident Nov. 26 during a prison riot near Mazar-e Sharif were evacuated through Uzbekistan and Turkey. All five were en route to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany this morning, Army Maj. Jim Cassella, another DoD spokesman, said.
"All five are expected to recover from their injuries and return to duty soon, after appropriate medical treatment," Casella said.
Clarke said there had been conflicting reports on the service members' conditions and whereabouts because it is difficult to get concrete, timely information out of the region. It is a fluid situation in an austere environment, she explained.
"There's a lot going on, and we still don't have significant numbers of people over there," she said. "It's not as though we have operations that have been established for a long time with lots of sophisticated, comprehensive communications.
"I'm sure [the military] are taking good care of these people, and that's what really matters," she added. Humanitarian relief operations continued with more than 19,000 Humanitarian Daily Rations being dropped in the area around Herat, Clarke said. U.S. forces also dropped leaflets near Kandahar, Ghanzi and Kunduz.
More than 600 Marines have so far arrived at a forward operating base 60-70 miles southwest of Kandahar. Clarke explained that number will grow to more than 1,000 over the next day or so.