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Sen. Kerry Criticizes U.S. Tactics

June 23, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said Sunday the war in Afghanistan was only partly a military success because of the ``enormous mistake″ of sending Afghan forces into the mountains after entrenched al-Qaida fighters rather than using tested U.S. troops.

Last year’s operation ousted Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban militia and routed the al-Qaida organization’s forces the Taliban were shielding. Kerry, considered a potential presidential candidate in 2004, was asked whether he judged it a military success.

``Only partly,″ said Kerry, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

``I think that our troops did a superb job on the ground, ... a superb job of soldiering. They showed initiative, courage, and they really helped to topple the Taliban and move the process forward,″ he said on NBC’s ``Meet the Press.″

But, he said, ``the Taliban are not the target. They were a collateral target. The target is and always has been al-Qaida, and al-Qaida, 1,000 strong, was gathered in one single mountain area, Tora Bora.

``We turned to Afghans, who a week earlier had been fighting for the other side, and said, `Hey, you guys, go up there in the mountains and go after the world’s number one terrorist and criminal who just killed 3,000-plus Americans.″

``I think that was an enormous mistake. I think the Tora Bora operation was a failed military operation, which resulted then in Anaconda, which also did not do the job. And the fact is that the prime target, al-Qaida, has dispersed, and in many ways is more dangerous than it was when it was in the mountains of Tora Bora.″

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