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US Urges Taleban Soldiers to Surrender

The Pentagon is urging Taleban soldiers in Afghanistan to surrender or face death at the hands of U.S. forces.

With allied air-strikes against Taleban and al-Qaida terrorist targets now in their second week, special U.S. military radio broadcasts into Afghanistan are urging Taleban soldiers to surrender.

The messages, in Dari and Pashto, are being broadcast from US EC-130 "Commando Solo" aircraft, essentially flying radio and television stations.

They say if Taleban soldiers surrender, no harm will come to them. They are advised to approach U.S. forces with hands in the air and with their weapons emptied of ammunition.

But are there any U.S. forces on the ground for Taleban soldiers to surrender to? Senior Pentagon officials decline comment.

Asked what Taleban soldiers should do if there are no U.S. troops around, the same officials suggest they should defect to opposition forces.

Despite the evasiveness, Pentagon sources indicate the U.S. led campaign could be poised for a new stage that might involve ground troops.

The sources say special operations forces with helicopters have been deployed aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier now in the Arabian Sea. They are prepared to go into Afghanistan if ordered.

The disclosure comes after days of relentless U.S. bombing against Taleban military and al-Qaida terrorist targets, including tanks, armored vehicles and barracks.

In recent days, U.S. bombers and fighter aircraft have been joined by AC-130 flying gunships, often used in support of ground troops.

Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem, deputy director of operations on the U.S. military's Joint Staff, says the Taleban's defenses are being steadily eroded.

"We are systematically pulling away at the legs under the stool that the Taleban leadership counts on to be able to exert their influence and power," he says.

Admiral Stufflebeem was asked whether U.S. forces should have a bombing pause to allow for stepped up humanitarian relief efforts for the Afghan people. He says U.S. actions are not standing in the way of relief efforts. He says the Taleban appears to be preventing aid groups from carrying out their duties.

U.S. cargo planes are air-dropping humanitarian food parcels into Afghanistan. But Pentagon officials concede such an air effort is inefficient. So far, some 400,000 individual meals have been dropped into the country.