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SLUG: 2-287327 Afghan / Pentagon (L-O)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE= 3/8/02

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE= AFGHAN/PENTAGON (L ONLY)

NUMBER=2-287327

BYLINE= ALEX BELIDA

DATELINE= PENTAGON

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: Senior defense officials say only a couple hundred al-Qaida and Taleban fighters remain holed up in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan after a weeklong U-S led offensive aimed at wiping them out. More from V-O-A Correspondent Alex Belida at the Pentagon.

TEXT: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the intensity of the battle in snow-dusted mountains south of Gardez has slackened as U-S led coalition troops advance, backed by heavy air support.

Mr. Rumsfeld tells a television interviewer al-Qaida forces are still firing back but he describes the resistance as relatively modest.

Air Force Brigadier General John Rosa (ROAS-AH) of the military's Joint Staff tells reporters at the Pentagon the U-S led onslaught has taken a toll on the opposition forces.

///ROSA ACTUALITY///

We believe there are still a couple hundred al-Qaida fighters remaining in the area and we believe we have killed several hundred al-Qaida and former Taleban troops since the beginning of this operation last Friday.

///END ACTUALITY///

Despite the American advances, General Rosa says there likely other pockets of al-Qaida and Taleban resistance elsewhere in the country.

///ROSA ACTUALITY///

I think we would be naive to believe that this is the last pocket in all of Afghanistan. It's a vast, vast country. Are all pockets going to be this difficult, we have no way of predicting.

///END ACTUALITY///

U-S casualties in operation Anaconda remain relatively modest --- eight dead and some 50 wounded. Most of the injured were the victims of al-Qaida mortar attacks.

In addition to U-S and allied Afghan troops, small numbers of forces from Australia, Canada, Germany and other European nations are taking part. (Signed)

NEB/BEL/MEM



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