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New US Operation in Afghanistan Expected to Take Some Time - 2003-03-20

U.S. military officials in Afghanistan say a new operation against the remnants of the Taleban and al-Qaida in southeastern Afghanistan will continue for some time. About 1,000 U.S. troops are involved in operation "Valiant Strike" near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan.

U.S. military officials say troops are combing the rugged Samighar Mountains in Kandahar Province looking for caves that might hide former Taleban fighters and al-Qaida terrorists.

Sergeant Richard Breach, a spokesman for the coalition forces at Bagram air base said it is purely coincidental that operation Valiant Strike began the same day as military operations against Iraq. "We are showing them that we are still out to win this war on terror and get rid of the remnants of the Taleban and whoever else is around," he said. "When it was planned we had no idea, it really has nothing to do with Iraq."

Southeast Afghanistan is a former stronghold of the Taleban. U.S. and Afghan forces have faced repeated small-scale attacks in the region recently.

Combat operations are expected to continue for at least several more days. The offensive is the largest launched by the U.S. military since operation Anaconda last year in Afghanistan.

But U.S. military officials say there have been several similar large military operations launched in southern Afghanistan in the past two months.