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SLUG: 2-287684 Afghan Fighting
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE= 03/18/02

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

NUMBER=2-287684

TITLE=AFGHAN-FIGHTING (S ONLY)

BYLINE=GARY THOMAS

DATELINE=KABUL

CONTENT=

VOICE AT:

INTRO: The commander of U-S forces in Afghanistan says the battle to root out dug-in al-Qaida and Taleban fighters is virtually finished and would be completed late Monday. But he says the war in Afghanistan is not over. V-O-A Correspondent Gary Thomas reports from Kabul.

TEXT: Speaking at the U-S base at Bagram Monday, General Tommy Franks declared the operation in eastern Afghanistan, dubbed "Anaconda," an unqualified and absolute success.

But General Franks says there remains additional work to be done to clear Afghanistan of Taleban and al-Qaida forces. As is American military practice, he would not discuss future operations in the war, but predicted they could well be the size of Anaconda.

Operation Anaconda began March Second, in the rugged Shah-E-Kot Valley and the surrounding Arma mountains of Paktia Province. A large, joint American-Afghan force -- joined by some European and Canadian troops -- went into the area to dislodge a force of al-Qaida and Taleban holdouts.

Coalition troops have been sweeping through caves in recent days, looking for any intelligence information, bodies or weapons. U-S officials say some 800 opposition fighters were killed in the offensive. However, Afghan commanders say they have found nowhere near that that number of bodies -- leading to speculation that some fighters may have escaped, perhaps to regroup elsewhere. (signed)

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