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Operation Anaconda Winding Down - 2002-03-12

U.S.and Afghan forces are winding down Operation Anaconda in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. Defense officials say there is still fighting with al-Qaida forces there, and officials say, more work needs to be done.

Despite reports from Afghanistan suggesting al-Qaida and Taleban hold-outs in the mountains south of Gardez have been overrun and are fleeing, the Pentagon says the fighting is not yet over.

Air Force Brigadier General John Rosa of the military's Joint Staff, says some terrorists remain in the area around Shah-e-Kot. "Al-Qaida forces are still holed up in small pockets scattered throughout the area," he said.

General Rosa says more than 1,000 U.S. and Afghan troops continue to sweep through the valleys and along the ridges, backed by air stikes that have seen more than 100 bombs dropped in the past 24 hours. He says the operation is continuing. "But in an area this big and this diverse with as many caves, I would say that there is still work to be done," said General Rosa.

The Pentagon says hundreds of al-Qaida and non-Afghan Taleban have been killed in the nearly two-week old offensive, the biggest of the war so far.

But officials say fewer than 20 people have been detained. They suggest the hostile forces have decided to fight to the death and reject the notion allied troops may consider a ceasefire to allow for surrenders.

Victoria Clarke is the Pentagon's chief spokesperson. "There are not negotiations for surrender," she said. "They can still have the means to surrender if they want, but we haven't seen any indication that they're inclined to do that."

Meanwhile, defense officials say a U.S. military advance team has arrived in Yemen to work out arrangements for a special American counter-terrorism training program for local forces.

Details have not yet been revealed. But U.S. officials indicate that in addition to training, some equipment will be turned over to Yemeni troops.

U.S. forces are already involved in a counter-terrorist training operation in the Philippines and are expected to begin another soon in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.