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Powell: Afghan campaign may end by winter's start

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said military considerations, not diplomatic ones, would guide any decision to end the U.S. campaign  

SHANGHAI, China (CNN) -- The U.S. campaign against Afghanistan should be wrapped up by the onset of winter, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday.

In an interview Sunday with CNN's "Late Edition," Powell said winter conditions would place constraints on U.S. operations.

"But we also are noticing that the Northern Alliance, which we are supporting, has become more aggressive in their actions up north and moving toward Kabul in the near future. So let us hope the campaign comes to an end soon, but the most important thing to remember is we will pursue it until our mission has been accomplished," Powell said.

Powell also said that any decision on whether to continue the campaign during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan would be based on military, not diplomatic, reasons. Ramadan begins November 17.

"It is a very important religious period, and we will take that into account," he said. "We will have to see where the mission is at that point, and what needs to be done, and I will yield to my colleagues in the Pentagon as to what we will do as we approach the season of Ramadan."

CNN's Chris Burns gives a situation report on the war between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban (October 21)

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CNN's Walter Rodgers on what the U.S. faces in convincing Muslims it is fighting a just war (October 21)

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But other officials warned that the overall anti-terrorism effort may take years -- even decades.

Vice President Dick Cheney told The Washington Post on Sunday that the war on terrorism that began October 7 "may never end. At least, not in our lifetimes." And Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Cheney's assessment "may be correct."

"I think this is going to be a long, hard-fought conflict, and it will be global in scale," Myers said. "It won't be, as I mentioned earlier, it won't be just military.

"It's going to be all the instruments of our national power with our friends and allies. And the fact that it could last several years or many years or maybe our lifetimes would not surprise me," Myers told ABC's "This Week."

The pace of U.S. strikes on Afghanistan showed no signs of abating Sunday as air raids were reported in Herat and the Oruzgan province in central Afghanistan. Both areas sustained heavy bombardment in recent days. CNN sources also reported airstrikes in the northern provinces of Samangan and Takhar overnight.

And U.S. attack planes struck the Taliban's front lines Sunday in northern Afghanistan in apparent coordination with the opposition Northern Alliance. Two carrier-based F/A-18 strike planes spent about 45 minutes hitting Taliban forces near the former Soviet air base at Bagram, which the Northern Alliance now holds, just north of Kabul.

Northern Alliance forces said 20 U.S. military personnel are working with their troops near the strategic northern city of Mazar-e Sharif, which sits along key supply routes in northeast Afghanistan.

Earlier Sunday, a Kabul resident told CNN that 13 civilians were killed during bombing overnight when U.S.-led strikes in Afghanistan appeared mostly lighter than in previous days. That report could not be independently confirmed.

CNN sources reported hearing at least one helicopter over Kabul, and in Kandahar, an AC-130 gunship was heard descending over the city after nightfall Saturday. And in the eastern city of Jalalabad, sources reported hearing the screech of fighter jets and then heavy anti-aircraft fire.

Pentagon officials said Saturday that U.S. troops had "accomplished their objectives" in a Friday night combat operation in an airfield in southern Afghanistan and a Taliban command and control center near Kandahar. But the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, denied there had been any clashes with U.S. ground forces.

Zaeef said there were only airstrikes to report. He said U.S. troops could not face the mujahedeen, and that if ground troops were sent in, they would see the bravery of the Afghan people and the Taliban.


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