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Lawmakers Say US Marine Deployment Sending Strong Signal To Taleban - 2001-11-27

Two U.S. lawmakers, who have just returned from Pakistan, say Islamabad has pledged to cut off supply and escape routes for supporters of Osama bin Laden hiding in caves along the Afghan border. While the senators were in the region, they also met with American troops taking part in the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan.

The Democratic chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, and the committee's ranking Republican, Senator John Warner of Virginia, spent the Thanksgiving recess last week meeting with Pakistani officials, including President Pervez Musharraf.

The senators say President Musharraf assured them his country is doing all it can to secure escape and resupply routes out of the caves and tunnels near the Afghan border with Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden and pro-Taleban forces are believed to be hiding.

"There are 170 avenues from Pakistan into Afghanistan, and Musharraf explained that his forces are doing their best to secure as many as they can," Senator Warner said.

Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist network are believed to be behind the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Senator Levin predicts the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan could be over soon, with Pakistan's help. "Within a matter of weeks or months, with the help of the Pakistanis trying to prevent resupply from the Pakistani side, we are going to be able to get al-Qaeda and the Taleban forces that remain," he said.

Senator Warner agrees, saying the deployment of U.S. Marines near Kandahar, the southern Afghan stronghold of the Taleban, sends a strong message about U.S. intentions in Afghanistan. "The mere presence of those Marines sends a signal that, I think, will have a significant factor in shortening the period of our operation in Afghanistan," he said.

While traveling in the region, Senators Warner and Levin also met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov.