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Bush: US Making Progress in Terrorist Fight - 2001-10-20

President Bush is saying little in public about the newest phase in the U.S. led military campaign against Taleban and terrorist targets in Afghanistan. But he does say progress is being made in the war on terrorism.

Mr. Bush is monitoring developments in the war on terrorism from Shanghai China, where he is attending a Pacific rim summit.

The first word of ground action in Afghanistan reached Shanghai before dawn.

President Bush conferred early in the day by teleconference with members of his national security team. They briefed him on the latest developments in the military operation, including the crash of a U.S. helicopter based in neighboring Pakistan.

The President, as he has throughout the conflict, is refusing to discuss operational details in public. When asked about reports more than one hundred special forces troops staged a quick night-time raid on a Taleban stronghold, Mr. Bush would only speak about military action in the broadest terms.

"We are dismantling Taleban defenses, Taleban military. We are destroying terrorist hideaways," he said. "We are, slowly, but surely, encircling the terrorists so that we can bring them to justice."

President Bush also offered his condolences to the families and friends of the two U.S. soldiers killed in the helicopter crash. "It is hard to express my gratitude in proper words for people that are willing to sacrifice for freedom," he said. "The nation feels the same gratitude. And I want to assure the loved ones that the soldiers died in a cause that is just and right and that we will prevail."

The Pentagon says the crash was an accident, and the helicopter crew was in Pakistan to help with search and rescue missions. While expressing his sorrow about the deaths of the two U.S. soldiers, President Bush acknowledged there will probably be other casualties. "I think the American people understand that ours will be a long struggle against terror. And they understand there will be sacrifice," he said.

The President spoke after talks in Shanghai with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, one of a number of Pacific rim leaders consulting with Mr. Bush on the sidelines of the APEC summit.

Among them are the presidents and prime ministers of Asian countries with large Muslim populations. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said he told President Bush that there will not be an end to international terrorism until there is a resolution of the Middle East crisis. He said Mr. Bush respected his views, and that on this point they agreed to disagree.