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US Increases Number of Special Forces in Afghanistan

The United States has increased the number of commando teams operating on the ground inside Afghanistan while also stepping up assistance to anti-Taleban resistance groups.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld still isn't revealing precise numbers. But he says the number of Special Forces teams inside Afghanistan has more than doubled in recent days, with more ready to go when the weather and other circumstances permit.

The teams are working with opposition groups like the Northern Alliance, coordinating air attacks and supply shipments. Pentagon officials are now openly acknowledging American aid to the opposition includes weapons as well as ammunition, food and cold weather gear.

Still, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld cautions reporters not to expect sudden miracles from the anti-Taleban forces. "It is not going to be a steady march forward across a front," he said. "It is going to be probes and pushes and successes and steps back. That is the nature of it [conflict] and I think we just have to face that fact."

Mr. Rumsfeld has just returned from a whirlwind visit to several countries in the region, including India, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. He says leaders there agree terrorism has to be rooted out and that Afghanistan is the place to start. "Of course there are going to be differences in views along the way but the objective is clear, the principle is sound and I would say the need is great. Indeed it is urgent," said Donald Rumsfeld.

U.S. air strikes are, meanwhile, continuing to hammer away at Taleban and al-Qaida terrorist targets, especially troop concentrations along the frontlines with opposition forces.

General Peter Pace, Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of the U.S. military, says U.S. forces have now used the biggest conventional bomb in their arsenal in the anti-terror campaign. He says two of these huge bombs, known as the BLU-82 and each weighing more than 6,000 kilograms, were dropped this week. He indicates they were used against troops in what he terms light defensive positions.