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Top US General Meets with Commanders in Kabul - 2004-04-16

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Friday, arrived in Afghanistan amid a stepped up campaign to kill or capture Osama bin Laden and to stabilize the country ahead of September national elections.

General Richard Myers met with U.S. commanders leading the hunt for the al-Qaida leader. His visit came a day after two Arabic television stations aired an audiotape, purportedly recorded by Osama bin Laden in recent weeks, in which he offers a truce to Europe if all European troops leave Muslim countries.

The Associated Press quotes the U.S. General as saying the tape is a reminder about the kind of extremism the United States and its allies are fighting, and how serious the threat is to those who want to live in a free and democratic environment.

Last month, the U.S. military deployed an additional two thousand Marines to step up its presence in Afghanistan to hunt al-Qaida terrorists and Taleban remnants on the Afghan-Pakistan border.

At the same time, neighboring Pakistan stepped up its pressure on al-Qaida and Taleban fighters hiding in the border area.

The new deployment of Marines boosts the U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan to 15,500 troops. The move came one week after NATO said it will boost its peacekeeping presence in the country ahead of the September elections.

The United Nations and others have warned that the elections will fail if security cannot be improved.