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US Official: Taleban Defeated, but War Not Yet Won - 2001-12-10


A top Defense Department official says the war in Afghanistan has not yet been won, although the Taleban have been defeated. Senior officials note top Taleban and al-Qaida leaders remain at large.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz says the Taleban have been defeated, which sends a message to any other government that would support terrorists. But Mr. Wolfowitz tells reporters at the Pentagon that a lot of hard, dangerous work remains to be done in Afghanistan.

"It remains the case that large numbers of al-Qaida terrorists, including senior leaders, as well as senior leaders of the Taleban, are still at large in Afghanistan. It is going to be a very long and difficult job to find them, to root them out," said Mr. Wolfowitz.

Key among the fugitives is al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, linked to the suicide attacks in the United States three months ago. Mr. Wolfowitz says the U.S. military believes he is somewhere in eastern Afghanistan. Fierce fighting is underway there and American planes have been dropping bombs in support of Afghan forces attacking suspected al-Qaida bases in tunnels and caves.

The deputy defense secretary says Osama bin Laden's communications have been disrupted and his authority over his forces has been diminished.

"This is a man on the run, a man with a big price on his head, a man who has to wake up every day and decide, 'do I keep all the security around me, which I need to make sure that some Afghan bounty hunters do not turn me in, but which help to give a lot of reports about my whereabouts, or do I go into hiding?' He does not have a lot of good options," said the official.

Also still on the run is Taleban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. But Mr. Wolfowitz reports two or three other important Taleban leaders have been captured. He gave no details.

He also says the United States is working closely with Pakistani authorities to ensure no Taleban or al-Qaida forces flee into Pakistan.

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