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Alliance moves 'helpful,' but war goes on, U.S. says

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said fleeing Taliban troops and terrorists will be hunted down wherever they hide.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said fleeing Taliban troops and terrorists will be hunted down wherever they hide.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Taliban withdrawal from Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, is a sign U.S. forces are "making great progress" against the Taliban and the al Qaeda terrorist network, President Bush said Tuesday.

But at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cautioned that the U.S. anti-terrorist campaign was "far from over."

Appearing with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, Bush said his administration will continue to work with the opposition Northern Alliance to make sure a new government in Afghanistan includes representatives of all the people.

"We're making great progress in our objective -- and that is to tighten the net and eventually bring al Qaeda to justice and at the same time deal with the government that has been harboring them," he said.

CNN's Matthew Chance traveled with Northern Alliance troops into the Afghan capital (November 13)

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Rumsfeld said the Northern Alliance's weekend advance was "clearly helpful" but the U.S. campaign would continue.

"This war is not about one man or one terrorist network or even one country," Rumsfeld said. "It is about a problem that infects this globe of ours with a number of terrorist networks and cells in a number of countries."

Rumsfeld said a small number of U.S. forces accompanied opposition troops into Kabul and a larger number of Special Operations troops were in southern Afghanistan in an attempt to disrupt Taliban forces.

"They are currently functioning independently of the tribes ... and they are doing things that are helpful to our side and unhelpful to the other side," Rumsfeld said.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the opposition advance into Kabul and across northern Afghanistan effectively controls half the country though "pockets of resistance remain."

Rumsfeld said the United States is working to open a land route into Afghanistan from neighboring Uzbekistan to bring in humanitarian aid and will repair airports around Mazar-e Sharif and north of Kabul.

He bristled at questions about large numbers of killings and looting in territory taken by the Northern Alliance -- particularly in Mazar-e Sharif, where Western sources told CNN as many as 600 people have been killed or executed since Northern Alliance fighters took control of the city Friday.

Citing the region's bloody history and earlier reports of massacres by the Taliban in the same area, Rumsfeld said, "I'll guess that when this is over, that this probably will prove to have been the change of hands with the least loss of life in modern memory in that country -- but there will be loss of life."


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