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Pentagon: Considerable Progress in Afghan War


U.S. air forces including heavy bombers continue to hammer Taleban and al-Qaida terrorist targets inside Afghanistan, as a senior Pentagon official reports considerable progress in the campaign.

Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem said Wednesday that scores of U.S. aircraft have been pounding a variety of Taleban and al-Qaida targets near Kabul, Kandahar, and elsewhere. The targets include suspected command sites in bunkers and tunnels as well as airfield facilities, terrorist camps, armored vehicles, and troop concentrations.

Admiral Stufflebeem told reporters the air strikes, now in their fourth week, have severely degraded Taleban and al-Qaida military capabilities, including critical command-and-control communications links along with re-supply and reinforcement efforts.

"And they're having difficulties in all of that," said Admiral Stufflebeem. "We believe that puts a terrific amount of stress on their military capability as their regional commanders who have been used to a lot of top down control may not be getting that now."

Pentagon officials estimate there were about 50-60,000 Taleban and al-Qaida troops in Afghanistan before the allied air campaign began. The Taleban and al-Qaida have not announced their casualties. But defense sources say they believe the number so far is high.

Admiral Stufflebeem said that meanwhile, he has seen no sign of a major push yet by Northern Alliance opposition forces against Taleban and al-Qaida frontlines. U.S. air strikes in recent days have been aimed at assisting the opposition in advancing on such strategic targets as the capital, Kabul.

A small number of U.S. ground troops are now with opposition forces, coordinating allied air strikes as well as allied air drops of military assistance.

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