SLUG: 2-292714 Pentagon / Afghanistan (L)
TITLE= PENTAGON / AFGHANISTAN (L ONLY)
BYLINE= ALEX BELIDA
INTRO: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld met Friday with the commander of U-S Special Forces, reportedly to discuss an accelerated effort to capture or kill al-Qaida terrorists. More from V-O-A Correspondent Alex Belida at the Pentagon.
TEXT: The Pentagon tried to characterize the Secretary's meeting with General Charles Holland as routine and just one of many meetings Mr. Rumsfeld has with senior commanders.
But the talks follow publication of a report in the Washington Times newspaper indicating Mr. Rumsfeld is growing impatient with the pace of efforts to capture or kill al-Qaida terrorists.
The newspaper reported the Defense Secretary wants Special Forces units to accelerate their covert missions aimed at accomplishing that goal.
Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke declined direct comment on the report. But she told reporters it is no secret Mr. Rumsfeld views the hunt for fugitive al-Qaida as an urgent mission.
The Secretary wants everyone to understand the sense of urgency about what we are doing here, that the threats out there are very, very real. Despite the success thus far in Afghanistan, we have a long way to go.
Ms. Clarke would not say whether Special Forces are stepping up their missions. But she said the hunt for al-Qaida fighters has grown more difficult as the months have passed since the start of U-S led anti-terrorist operations in Afghanistan late last year.
Pentagon officials describe the situation in that country over the past week as relatively quiet. In one incident last Wednesday, the officials say that during an intelligence gathering mission near Gardez, coalition forces detained five suspects. There was no immediate word on their identities or affiliations. (Signed)
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