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US Sends More Troops, Aircraft into Afghan Action - 2002-05-01

The United States has been deploying more troops accompanied by attack helicopters in eastern Afghanistan to support operations against fugitive al-Qaida and Taleban fighters and their mountain hide-outs.

Just back from a visit to Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is not talking about how many U.S. troops are involved in the latest effort.

But Mr. Rumsfeld confirms to reporters at the Pentagon, operations are ongoing to prevent any possible al-Qaida or Taleban resurgence in the country.

"The situation in Afghanistan is far from over," said Secretary Rumsfeld. "It is a situation where we know there are al-Qaida and Taleban who in some instances have not left the country and in some instances if they have left the country, they haven't left very far."

Mr. Rumsfeld says these fugitives still hope to destabilize Afghanistan and unseat the country's interim government. He says American, coalition and Afghan forces intend to prevent that. "It's our task to see that that doesn't happen," as he put it.

Pentagon officials describe the latest U.S. deployments as part of the ongoing "Operation Mountain Lion," a largely British-led mission in the Afghan mountains near the Pakistani border.

It is an area where al-Qaida and Taleban fighters have repeatedly regrouped, using cave hide-outs and hidden weapons caches. So far there have been no reports by American officials of any direct clashes or any American or other coalition casualties.

Meanwhile, Pentagon sources say the United States is resuming flights of al-Qaida and Taleban detainees from Afghanistan to the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Prisoner transfers were suspended pending completion of a new semi-permanent detention facility. The new facility has now opened and the 300 detainees already in Cuba have been moved there from their open-air cells.