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Pentagon:  Taleban Preparing for Last Stand - 2001-11-26

The Pentagon says Taleban forces may be preparing for a fight to the finish at their last stronghold, Kandahar. U.S. Marines have established a forward operating base near that southern Afghan city.

General Richard Myers, Chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs, calls Kandahar the Taleban's last bastion. He says there are mixed reports about Taleban activities there, but he believes they are preparing for a last stand.

"We think they are going to dig in and fight, and fight, perhaps, to the end," he said. "That is the situation as we know it right now."

The Taleban are led by Mullah Mohamed Omar. General Myers says he appears to be trying to rally Taleban forces while al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden appears to be concentrating on avoiding capture.

"Omar seems to be trying to organize the fighting of the Taleban - and bin Laden, on the other hand, seems to be concentrating on hiding," he said. "And it is quite a difference in, perhaps, what their objectives are."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tells reporters he does not think that Mullah Omar is likely to let himself be captured or to surrender. "From everything I have read about him, he is a rather determined, dead-ender type," he said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Marines have established what officials describe as a forward operating base outside of Kandahar.

Mr. Rumsfeld says hundreds, not thousands, of Marines are involved. He declines to discuss their specific duties, beyond establishing and holding the base. But he indicates it will be a secure staging facility for the U.S. Special Forces who have been operating in the area for weeks, intercepting Taleban and al-Qaida forces and calling in airstrikes.