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Jane's Military Experts Predict Afghan Conflict Nears Final Phase

Military experts at the London-based Jane's Information Group say the conflict in Afghanistan has entered its final, crucial phase with the arrival of U.S. Marines near Kandahar. Jane's Information Group is a world renowned center for analysis of defense, aerospace, and security issues.

It was in 1898 that Fred T. Jane of London published the first edition of Jane's All the World's Fighting Ships. It almost instantly became the authoritative guide to naval ships and intelligence.

Now the company he founded produces nearly 200 publications on ships, planes, armies, weapons, and intelligence each year. Its subscriber list includes nearly every defense ministry and intelligence service in the world.

Since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, the experts at Jane's have been working to explain what is happening, and to predict what might happen next.

Charles Heyman is a retired British army major who edits Jane's World Armies publication. He says the arrival of U.S. Marines near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar foreshadows the final push to hunt down Osama bin Laden."I think we are expecting certainly the next couple of months or so, from a military point of view, to be extremely interesting. We are expecting to see quite large numbers of American troops inserted into Afghanistan. And we expect to see that hunt for bin Laden intensified with very, very large numbers of troops on the ground," he says.

The editor of Jane's Defense Weekly, Clifford Beal, says the future of modern warfare is on display in Afghanistan. "We are witnessing the dawn of robotic warfare. Not only have unmanned aerial vehicles spied on al-Qaida members from on high, they have also engaged them with missiles. This has shortened the crucial sensor-to-shooter time loop that the military refers to. That means simply that the time between locating an enemy and striking him has been reduced to just minutes, rather than hours or days," he says.

Chris Aaron is the editor of Jane's Intelligence Review. He says that since September 11, the al-Qaida terrorist network has been largely eroded in east Africa, Europe, and the Caucasus.

But he says intelligence agencies remain worried about al-Qaida operations in the Asia-Pacific region. Also, he says, the Central Intelligence Agency has intensified its spying on terrorist operations in an area of South America where the borders of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina meet.

None of the Jane's panel wanted to predict where al-Qaida might strike next, saying it could spark panic. But they say one of their biggest worries is that terrorists could spread radioactive wastes in a major city, poisoning thousands of people with radiation.