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US:  Fight Not Over in Afghanistan - 2001-12-16

Bush administration officials warn it is too early to declare victory against al-Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan. They say although progress is being made in the Tora Bora region of eastern Afghanistan, the fight is not over.

The Commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan urges patience as American and Afghan forces move against the last al-Qaida holdouts. "They are making progress," he said. "But I think it is accurate to say it is going to be a while before we have the area of Tara Bora fully under control."

General Tommy Franks told the ABC television program This Week they are still looking for Osama bin Laden. He was asked if the al-Qaida leader might have slipped into neighboring Pakistan.

"We simply do not know right now. And so what we do is we absorb and we analyze information from a variety of sources and act accordingly," said Gen. Franks. "And our focus remains in the Tora Bora area, as it has for the past several days."

General Franks said U.S. forces have been trying to monitor radio transmissions that might give a clue to Osama bin Laden's whereabouts. A few days ago, there were indications they might have heard his voice giving commands.

But General Franks indicated those transmissions were inconclusive. "And I would say at this point we are not sure whether it is [bin Laden] or not," he said.

Earlier, Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Fox television network he is confident Osama bin Laden will be captured.

"We understand the nature of the battle we are in," he said. "And he is elusive; he will try to stay hidden. He will try to avoid us. But let there be no doubt, in anyone's mind that the president is determined that however long it takes, as he says to us almost every day - one day, one week, one month, two years - we will get him."

During an appearance on the Fox News Sunday program, Secretary Powell said the videotape of Osama bin Laden released Thursday by the Bush administration shows the true evil nature of the man. Later, White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice told CNN's Late Edition that Osama bin Laden is projecting the image of a coward.

"Anybody who hides in caves and runs this way while he is still trying to send young fighters to their deaths is not a very brave person," she said. "And what we are learning about Osama bin Laden is that this is not a leader."

Ms. Rice was asked about the likelihood of further al-Qaida attacks on the United States. She said the government is doing everything it can to provide better security. And while President Bush has urged all Americans to take part in their usual holiday festivities this month, his national security advisor said they should be extra vigilant.