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Pentagon Shutting Down Key Crisis Group

The Pentagon is shutting down a key crisis group formed in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks against U.S. targets. But, military officials say the move does not mean the campaign in Afghanistan is near its end.

The Voice of America has learned that a special Pentagon crisis group headed by Admiral John Stufflebeem of the military's Joint Staff is being disbanded Friday.

Defense officials say the small, tightly-knit so-called "future operations group" was formed just days after the September 11 suicide terrorist attacks on New York's World Trade Center and Washington's Pentagon.

Sources say the group "looked across the board," drawing on up-to-the-minute intelligence reports, to consider a near-term strategy for what needed to be done in attacking terrorist cells like al-Qaida and their sponsors like the Taleban in Afghanistan. But they say the group has also considered possible operations elsewhere.

Officials say the Stufflebeem group's disbanding does not mean the operation in Afghanistan is near an end or that no other countries will be targeted in the U.S. campaign against terrorist networks.

It is "definitely not any kind of pullback," says one Pentagon official. He says job of looking ahead two-to-three months has now been taken over by individual combatant commands and military services, although he notes officials on the Joint Staff will continue to keep an eye on developments.

Admiral Stufflebeem has become one of the leading public spokesmen at the Pentagon, appearing regularly in recent months at briefings to discuss U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.