Pentagon sources have disclosed plans for a new anti-terrorist
offensive in Afghanistan at the same time a U.S. military spokesman
has sounded a confident note about the likely capture of al-Qaida
leader Osama bin Laden.
U.S. military spokesman Bryan Hilferty tells reporters in
Afghanistan the hunt for fugitive al-Qaida terrorist leader
Osama bin Laden is continuing and that officials are confident
he will be caught this year.
The spokesman's comments come as Pentagon sources disclose
plans for a major spring offensive by U.S. troops in Afghanistan
aimed at destroying the remnants of al-Qaida.
There has been no official confirmation of the planned operation.
Military spokesmen routinely refuse to discuss future actions,
citing the need to preserve operational security.
Defense officials have also refused to comment on a report
by the Chicago Tribune newspaper which claims the
new U.S. military offensive will reach inside Pakistan.
In an interview with the Washington Post last week,
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said he thought Osama
bin Laden "might be on the border between Afghanistan and
Pakistan." He also acknowledged the presence on Pakistani
territory of al-Qaida and Taleban supporters, but said Pakistani
forces are "operating against them."
However Mr. Musharraf, speaking last week in Switzerland,
also rejected the need for U.S. forces to enter Pakistan
to assist in anti-terrorist operations.
Still, the Chicago Tribune quotes a military source
in Washington as saying the coming operation will see American
troops go into Pakistan "with Musharraf's help."
The newspaper says the U.S. plans are being driven by concerns
over recent assassination attempts aimed against the Pakistani
president as well as by a resurgence of attacks by al-Qaida
and the Taleban in Afghanistan.