Afghanistan: February 15, 2002

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The Italian destroyer "Durand de la Penne" (CPT Donato Marzano, crew 405, Pennant D560) and the frigate "Maestrale" (CPT Giorgio Gomma, crew 238, Pennant F570) left the port of Taranto [Puglia] on 11 February 2002, bound for the Arabian Sea. Both ships are carrying a pair of Sea King SH-3D helicopters. They will reach their station in early March and join Operation Enduring Freedom, replacing the aircraft carrier "Garibaldi", supply ship "Etna", frigate "Zeffiro" and patrol boat "Aviere".

The original four-ship Italian flotilla took up station off Afghanistan in early December 2001, with the frigates "Zefiro" and "Aviere" patrolling along the coasts of Iran and Pakistan. Both Italian vessels carried ComSubIn [Underwater Assault Commando] assault troops, ready to go into action even though the Americans retained the exclusive right to take prisoners under Operation "Enduring Freedom." As of 8 January 2002, the Italian sailors had inspected 400 boats and ships. Up until that date, the "Garibaldi"'s eight AV-8 Harriers had only flown self-defense and reconnaissance missions. Afterwards, they were outfitted with their own ordnance packages.

In December, an Italian pilot on a nighttime mission around Kandahar discovered a convoy of trucks with their headlights off driving along steep mountain track. He immediately contacted the local lookout, an American concealed on the ground. The American observer confirmed that there were Taliban on the run and bombers were called. The Italian Navy Harriers also flew target designation missions, lighting up Taliban positions with laser designators (only once was a "Garibaldi" Harrier hit). Flights were six hours long, with an hour and a half spent overflying the edge of their assigned sectors and were refueled in flight three times. - Adam Geibel

A soccer game between peacekeeping troops and Afghans proved so popular that it caused a riot. All of the soccer stadium's 25,000 seats were full when the police and some peacekeeping troops tried to deal with the 15,000 angry fans who could not get in. Three peacekeepers and 20 or so Afghans were injured when the mob began throwing rocks.

Control of Paktia province is still in doubt. Two warlords are contending for control, each saying they can put 5-10,000 men into action. The interim government has been recognizing whichever warlord actually controls the province, while continuing to try to get everyone to negotiate a compromise.

U.S. and Canadian troops guarding the air base at Kandahar have, for the second night, had to deal with someone probing their defenses. People on foot and in vehicles have been moving about the base. Sometimes the intruders fire into the base with rifles. The intruders are thought to be Taliban or al Qaeda fighters who have not given up.

 

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