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US Military Working With Pakistani Forces in Search for al-Qaida, Taleban - 2002-05-03

Coalition forces in Afghanistan are conducting operations along the border with Pakistan to prevent Taleban and al-Qaida forces from regrouping. The Pentagon says the sweep is being conducted in coordination with Pakistani forces.

For days, senior U.S. defense officials have declined to discuss publicly what American, British and other allied forces are doing in the rugged mountain area along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

But Friday, Brigadier General John Rosa of the Pentagon's joint staff finally broke the silence, laying out in broad terms the nature of the current mission, known as Operation Mountain Lion.

"Coalition forces are operating along the border with Pakistan under Operation Mountain Lion, searching for al-Qaida and former Taleban while also trying to prevent the enemy from regrouping, moving and operating freely in this region as we eliminate their sanctuaries," General Rosa said.

General Rosa gave few additional details.

But he made clear the military activity is being carefully coordinated with Pakistani troops on the Pakistani side of the border.

"We're coordinating and working every day hand-in-hand with the Pakistani forces," he said.

Despite some published suggestions this could be the last major operation of the now seven-month old military action in Afghanistan, General Rosa reported no significant fighting and no fresh evidence of any al-Qaida or Taleban build-up.

General Rosa said about 7,000 U.S. troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan. He said there are no plans to increase that troop level. He also said he is not aware of any plans by U.S. allies to draw down their force levels in connection with the overall counter-terrorist mission known as Operation Enduring Freedom.