Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says there are now several hundred U.S. Special Forces commandos operating inside Afghanistan, pursuing Taleban and al-Qaida leaders.
Mr. Rumsfeld says U.S. air-strikes continue to pound away at suspected Taleban and al-Qaida leadership targets, including caves and tunnels. He says Special Forces on the ground help in the targeting and also man roadblocks in hopes of catching any fleeing Taleban and al-Qaida leaders.
But speaking with reporters, Mr. Rumsfeld makes clear the Pentagon is relying less on its own forces than on massive amounts of reward money plus Afghan gratitude for being liberated from oppressive rulers to bring about the capture of fugitives like Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohamed Omar.
"Our hope is that the incentive, the dual incentive, of helping to free that country from a very repressive regime and to get the foreigners and al-Qaida out of there, coupled with substantial monetary rewards, will incentivize...a large number of people to begin crawling through those tunnels and caves looking for the bad folks," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
At the same time, the Defense Secretary disputes the notion that Taleban and al-Qaida leaders are now bottled up in a limited portion of Afghanistan.
"The al-Qaida and Taleban leadership can be any number of places and they move frequently and therefore to try and think we have them contained in some sort of a small area would be a misunderstanding of the difficulty of the task," he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Rumsfeld says the United States will oppose any negotiated deals under which opposition groups agree to allow Taleban or al-Qaida forces to leave the country.
"It's our hope that they [opposition] will not engage in negotiations that will provide for the release of al-Qaida forces, that would provide for the release of foreign nationals, non-Afghans, leaving the country and destabilizing neighboring countries," he said.
He also says the United States will not knowingly let Mullah Omar leave Kandahar even if he strikes such a deal with opposition forces in return for handing over power in the Taleban stronghold.