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Pentagon Sources Disclose New Afghan Anti-Terror Offensive


Pentagon sources have disclosed plans for a new anti-terrorist offensive in Afghanistan at the same time a U.S. military spokesman has sounded a confident note about the likely capture of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

U.S. military spokesman Bryan Hilferty tells reporters in Afghanistan the hunt for fugitive al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden is continuing and that officials are confident he will be caught this year.

The spokesman's comments come as Pentagon sources disclose plans for a major spring offensive by U.S. troops in Afghanistan aimed at destroying the remnants of al-Qaida.

There has been no official confirmation of the planned operation. Military spokesmen routinely refuse to discuss future actions, citing the need to preserve operational security.

Defense officials have also refused to comment on a report by the Chicago Tribune newspaper which claims the new U.S. military offensive will reach inside Pakistan.

In an interview with the Washington Post last week, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said he thought Osama bin Laden "might be on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan." He also acknowledged the presence on Pakistani territory of al-Qaida and Taleban supporters, but said Pakistani forces are "operating against them."

However Mr. Musharraf, speaking last week in Switzerland, also rejected the need for U.S. forces to enter Pakistan to assist in anti-terrorist operations.

Still, the Chicago Tribune quotes a military source in Washington as saying the coming operation will see American troops go into Pakistan "with Musharraf's help."

The newspaper says the U.S. plans are being driven by concerns over recent assassination attempts aimed against the Pakistani president as well as by a resurgence of attacks by al-Qaida and the Taleban in Afghanistan.