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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Operation Anaconda Will Continue

Aired March 14, 2002 - 06:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Now we want to go live to the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan for that news conference with General Frank Hagenbeck. Let's listen.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MAJ. GEN. F.L. HAGENBECK, CHIEF COMMANDER, OPERATION ANACONDA: ...and the Afghan forces have been instrumental in this fight. Their attack from the northwest on our very first day, the initial main effort turned up the pressure on the al Qaeda and the Taliban forces and allowed us to mass combat power east of the objective Remington (ph) that I'll describe shortly. And in the past few days, they've seized the ridge line known as the "Whale."

This is a ground-centric, boots-on-the-ground war. However, air power has been an interval part of this joint fight. They've flown hundreds of missions in very difficult weather and have done an amazing job. The Navy has continued to give us incredible responsive close air support and the Marine aviation has provided both their Cobras as well as some lift helicopters to us.

And I need to acknowledge the ongoing support and contributions of our superb National Guard and Reserve service members. As mentioned on previous days, we've lost 11 brave men, three Afghanis and eight Americans. Each life taken from us is absolutely terrible. We mourn each one, and for their bravery and a noble cause we honor them.

Our enemy, as described by Secretary Rumsfeld, are certainly dead-enders. The most committed, the most dangerous trained killers, and as we have seen, the least likely to surrender. Nevertheless, we've killed hundreds of them, and we'll continue combat operations in Shah-e-Kot Mountains until we remove the terrorist parasites that threaten Afghanistan and the peace of the world. The hunt continues.

Anaconda is an operation unlike any other. We're fighting a well-trained, heavily armed, suicidal enemy in positions that have been prepared and improved over decades. And we've fought in difficult weather, in mountainous terrain, very much like the American Rockies or the Alps. Now we currently don't brief ongoing or future operations, but I will tell you that we're right on track. We continue Operation Anaconda on target on our timeline.

As the name suggests, we continue to squeeze the al Qaeda pockets. On D Day, we expected to find lots of al Qaeda terrorists and we did. We expected to have to reposition and to reinforce our forces, and we did. We expected the al Qaeda and Taliban to fight fiercely, and they did. And we expected that some of the terrorists would try to run away, and luckily for us, they did not. They stayed and fought, and we've killed them.

We've rid the world of hundreds of trained killers who will now not slaughter innocent men, women and children. As a result, hundreds of their most experienced killers are now dead. Some have been captured. Others are still on the run, hoping to strike again. We've destroyed dozens of mortars and heavy machine guns and destroyed many caves and compounds. We continue surveillance and a reconnaissance monitoring those who are trying to escape.

The coalition continues to reposition its forces as we have since D Day. However, there are still approximately 1,000 coalition forces on the ground in the objective area aggressively searching for and destroying the enemies of freedom. The hunt continues. Anaconda continues, and the war in Afghanistan is not over.

I'll take your questions.

QUESTION: Sir, what do you know about ...

COSTELLO: All right, we're going to break away right now just to -- just to reiterate what the General said -- 800 killed, al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. Operation Anaconda goes on. We'd expected him to say that Operation Anaconda was over, but it is not. A thousand coalition forces remain on the ground.

They are still fighting, squeezing the enemy and will fight until all of the violent parasites are removed -- those are words from the General, and we're going to go live to Martin Savidge a little later on in this hour, so stick around with us.

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