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A 'liaison' mission in Afghanistan

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A small number of U.S. special forces troops are on the ground in northern Afghanistan, on a non-combat, liaison mission with Northern Alliance opposition forces, defense officials told CNN on Friday. Officials said those forces are not engaging in direct combat at this time.


Earlier on Friday, a senior U.S. official told CNN that troops were deployed in southern Afghanistan in recent days for operations "consistent with the changing nature of the operation." The official declined to be more specific about the number of U.S. troops or the details of the operation, except to say that special forces operations were always envisioned as part of the U.S. military campaign. (Full story)

Meanwhile, heavy airstrikes pounded Kandahar Friday. Daytime raids occurred in Kabul, Al Jazeera reported; at least two bombs -- one described as a very heavy bomb -- were dropped. Bombing was also reported Thursday night in the eastern city of Jalalabad, where a TV station and terrorist training camps were believed to be among the targets. (Full story)

The Bush administration began talks Friday with the United Nation's envoy on Afghanistan regarding a future government in Kabul should the Taliban regime fall from power. (Full story)

Local Afghan employees of an international aid agency met with reporters in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Friday and said 10 civilians in Kabul, Afghanistan, had been killed in the U.S. bombing campaign, morale among Taliban troops remained high and the U.S. had bombed a lot of "junk" because Taliban weaponry had been moved to rural areas. (Full story)

An estimated 3,500 refugees from Afghanistan entered Pakistan on Friday through the Chaman border crossing, the United Nations told CNN. It could be the largest number of refugees to cross here in one day since airstrikes began, but it is unclear how such a large number of refugees made it across the border, which remains officially closed.

Pakistan has turned over the use of its Dalbandin Air Base in the western part of the country to "coalition forces," high-ranking officials in Balochistan Province told CNN Friday. The base is located in the Balochistan desert west of Quetta and could be strategically important if U.S. and British forces needed a staging ground close to Kandahar, a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan about 125 miles (200 km) northwest of Quetta. (Full story)

  •  Summary

  •  Update

  •  Key questions

  •  Who's who

  •  Impact

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When will the Northern Alliance, the anti-Taliban group that controls up to 10 percent of Afghanistan, begin a ground offensive to take the capital of Kabul? Are they making any progress? (Click here for more.)

What is life like in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, with increasingly intense U.S. airstrikes overhead? (Click here for more.)

How long will the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan last? (Click here for more.)

What is the goal to the U.S. airstrikes over Afghanistan? What is the key to the mission's success? (Click here for more.)

What is the White House doing to prevent al Qaeda from airing what it calls "propaganda" on U.S. media outlets? (Click here for more.)

Who are the key players in the political landscape of Afghanistan, and how could U.S. military intervention affect the balance of power there? (Click here for more.)


George W. Bush: U.S. president (Click here for more.)

Osama bin Laden: A wealthy Saudi expatriate living in Afghanistan who U.S. authorities cite as one of the primary suspects in masterminding the attacks. (Click here for more.)

Condoleezza Rice: U.S. national security adviser. (Click here for more.)

Saudi exile Osama bin Laden is considered a prime suspect in the September 11 attacks.  

Colin Powell: U.S. secretary of state. A former Army general, Powell also served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Click here for more. (Click here for more.)

Gen. Richard B. Myers: Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Click here for more.)

Donald Rumsfeld: U.S. secretary of defense. (Click here for more.)

George Tenet: CIA director. (Click here for more.)

Northern Alliance: A group of former mujahedeen fighters, mainly from minority ethnic groups that oppose the Taliban. The group controls about five percent of northern Afghanistan.

George Robertson: Secretary-General of NATO (and former British defense minister) (Click here for more.)


The military attacks that began October 7 mark the start of what the Bush administration says will be a lengthy struggle against terrorist organizations worldwide -- one that could take years.


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