Schmidt: ‘Air supremacy’ achieved, U.S. launches ground assault

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Staff Writer

Marines from the United States landed in Afghanistan near Kandahar, a city formerly held by the Taliban, on Sunday and more are expected to arrive.

And one Pike County man is watching that news with particular interest because a man who was lieutenant in his company is now the colonel of those troops with the 15th Expeditionary Unit, said Col. (Ret.) John Schmidt.

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Since the terrorist attacks on America, Schmidt has watched with interest as military personnel have been activated and he has kept a close eye on his friends overseas in Afghanistan.

"We’ve achieved air supremacy

and are a lot more mobile on the ground which makes us more able to track down the terrorists," Schmidt said.

That is the type of work the 15th MEU is trained for, Schmidt said of the mission which will involve searching caves. "They have the training and technology the Northern Alliance doesn’t have," Schmidt said.

Although more troops are expected to arrive in that particular area, the retired Marines colonel does not anticipate the United States’ presence will be there long.

"I don’t see us being there a prolonged period of time," he said of military personnel in Kandahar.

Being able to get in and out quickly is a credit to the special operations units, he added. Arrival of U.S. troops occurred as the Northern Alliance was claiming to have seized Kunduz, the Taliban’s last northern stronghold, following a siege that lasted about two weeks.

The fall of Kunduz came a couple of days before talks with Germany were to get underway as a means of establishing a broad-based government, leaving the Islamic militia only a small portion of Afghanistan ­ mostly near Kandahar ­ under its control.

"We’ve had a very successful air campaign," Schmidt said.

But, the next phase, he said, is locating Osama bin Laden and his key men.

American leaders are also concerned about what they will leave behind.

"What type of government will be in charge" is a concern, Schmidt said. "Militarily, we have the right forces there…enough to do a search and destroy mission."