WASHINGTON, May 1: The United States is deploying several hundred troops and helicopters to the eastern Afghan mountains, near Pakistan, to support British and other Western forces hunting Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters, US officials said on Wednesday.

One senior official said about 200 soldiers from the US 101st Airborne Division would join several hundred British Marines, Canadian troops and others already involved in an operation near Khost.

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that up to 1,000 US soldiers could join the operation near Khost, only 32kms from the Pakistan border.

But both the US Central Command based in Tampa, Florida, and the senior US official disputed that figure.

“The number is high. But certainly a large number are being moved,” the official said.

The Pentagon believes hundreds of Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters could be gathering in the area.

One US official confirmed the Post report that the United States had also moved AH-64 “Apache” attack helicopters to a US special forces base near Khost.

US and Afghan troops conducted a major two-week operation in the mountainous region around Gardez in early March. American warplanes dropped more than 2,500 bombs in “Operation Anaconda,” reportedly killing hundreds of regrouping al Qaeda and Taliban.

RUMSFELD MUM ON DETAILS: US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declined to confirm or deny the troop movements, but told reporters at a briefing that Al Qaeda were still hiding in Afghanistan and over the border in Pakistan.

“There is no question but that in the two locations I’ve said — in the country and over the borders — there still are a nontrivial number of those folks that would very much like to take back the country,” he said.

“It is our task to see that that doesn’t happen,” Rumsfeld added. He said he did not personally know of any “actionable” intelligence reports suggesting that Osama bin Laden or other leaders of al Qaeda were hiding on either side of the border.

Rumsfeld told reporters traveling with him on a trip to Afghanistan last week that spring could bring a regrouping of remnants of Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.—Reuters



07 Dec 2021

Losing fiscal discipline

ONE of the several changes proposed in the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act of 2005, seeking major...
07 Dec 2021

Taliban brutality

LAST WEEK, the US, the Western countries and other allies joined hands to condemn the Afghan Taliban for the alleged...
Dangerous justification
Updated 07 Dec 2021

Dangerous justification

AT a time when millions worldwide are consumed with anger and despair over the barbaric lynching of a Sri Lankan...
Who should vote?
06 Dec 2021

Who should vote?

Logistical issues regarding transparency in the casting of votes also require detailed deliberations.
06 Dec 2021

Weak fundamentals

LAST week, Pakistan’s finance chief Shaukat Tarin sought to reassure the markets and people that our economic...
06 Dec 2021

Winter sports potential

FOR a country blessed with three of the world’s most famous mountain ranges, Pakistan has produced precious few...