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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-314078 Afghan Offensive (L-O)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=3/13/04

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=AFGHANISTAN/OFFENSIVE (L-O)

NUMBER=2-314078

BYLINE=MICHAEL KITCHEN

DATELINE= ISLAMABAD

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: The U-S military in Afghanistan says it has begun a new operation in the eastern half of the country to flush out militants, including members of the al-Qaida terror network. V-O-A's Michael Kitchen reports from neighboring Pakistan on this latest coalition campaign.

TEXT: A U-S military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Bryan Hilferty, said the newly launched "Operation Mountain Storm" was the latest in an "evolution" of steps the coalition is taking against anti-government insurgents.

Speaking to reporters in Kabul, he said the new campaign would involve all of the more than 13-thousand coalition troops in Afghanistan, but he would not elaborate on the details of the operation.

U-S and Afghan forces have been facing off against armed insurgents led by remnants of Afghanistan's former Taleban regime, but also said to include members of al-Qaida.

Reports during the past month have said U-S forces were close to finding al-Qaida's fugitive leader, Osama bin Laden, but Lieutenant Colonel Hilferty said the new operation was not aimed at hunting for individuals.

/// HILFERTY ACT ///

It is certainly about more than one person. We do have confidence, though, and the leaders of al-Qaida and the leader of (the) Taleban need to be brought to justice. And they will be.

/// END ACT ///

He said the real focus of Operation Mountain Storm is to maintain stability in Afghanistan as it prepares for national elections, currently slated for this summer.

/// REST OPT ///

The coalition campaign coincides with Pakistan's hunt for foreign militants in its semi-autonomous tribal area of South Waziristan.

That operation, launched Friday, involves a posse of local tribesmen, organized by local elders amid pressure from the Pakistani government.

Pakistani officials say the Waziristan action is unrelated to U-S and Afghan operations across the border. (SIGNED)

NEB/HK/MK/BK/RAE



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