Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Ft. Campbell area told war could last five years




By Lori Burling
The Associated Press

        HOPKINSVILLE — A four-star general once stationed at Fort Campbell talked Monday with residents of nearby communities and thanked them for their patriotism during the war in Afghanistan.

        Gen. John Keane, vice chief of staff of the Army, was the key speaker at a town-hall-style forum also attended by the commanding general at Fort Campbell, Maj. Gen. Richard A. Cody, and U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky.

        “His answers were direct and straightforward,” David Welker, 50, of Cadiz, said of Gen. Keane. “He's one of our men. There's a level of trust with Gen. Keane because he's from here, from Fort Campbell.”

        Mr. Welker was among about 200 people who crowded into the 1 1/2-hour session in this western Kentucky city's War Memorial Building.

        Fort Campbell, about 20 miles south of Hopkinsville, is home to the 101st Airborne Division and the 5th Special Forces Group. Troops from both units are deployed in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

        At one point Gen. Keane was asked what role Fort Campbell will take as the war continues.

        “I estimate this war to continue at least five years, but nobody knows. I can say that we'll probably increase the size of the 5th Special Forces Group and the 101st Airborne Division,” Gen. Keane said.

        “Afghanistan is only the beginning, but it was the obvious place to begin.”

        Gen. Keane, who was stationed at Fort Campbell several different times between 1988 and 1996, talked about the terrorists who crashed airliners into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Sept. 11.

        “They want your confidence,” Gen. Keane said while pointing to the audience members. “That's why they've come to kill us. They want to break down your confidence.

        “These terrorists have a monumental misjudgment about who we are,” Gen. Keane said. “Because the death of 3,000-plus citizens in September didn't weaken our confidence, it has made it stronger.”

        Gen. Keane said the al-Qaida terrorist network, and the Taliban government that was ousted in Afghanistan, also underestimated America's military.

        “In the past, they saw us when we left Lebanon and Somalia and didn't come back,” he said. “This time we won't stop until we destroy them.”

        Gen. Keane said he had fond memories of the missions that brought him to Fort Campbell.

        “I could talk all day about Fort Campbell,” Gen. Keane said. “Fort Campbell and the communities surrounding it represent the best of what America is about — that's based on patriotism.

        “These communities welcome the soldiers and every time there is a tragedy, which Gen. Cody has already faced, the community puts its arms around the soldiers and their families.”

        Three Fort Campbell-based Green Berets were killed by friendly fire in December. Those soldiers were members of the 5th Special Forces Group.

        Some residents in the audience expressed concern for the safety of the Taliban and al-Qaida detainees being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

        Gen. Keane replied: “We have the right to interrogate them after what's happened, but we are treating them in a humane fashion. They have three meals a day, they're kept warm and they're receiving medical assistance. But we will be firm with them.”

        “They're being treated better than some deserve,” Mr. Whitfield said.

       



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- Ft. Campbell area told war could last five years
Kentucky Digest