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Marines will not join Tora Bora search


U.S. Marines will not be joining the search of caves in the Tora Bora region as the Marines at the Kandahar airport remained on heightened alert Wednesday after officials said they received warnings of a possible threat during the holiday.

Buoyed by confidence in Afghanistan's newly installed interim administration, Afghan refugees from Pakistan have begun returning to their homeland in numbers.


U.S. Marines in Afghanistan will not be deployed to help search caves in the Tora Bora region, Pentagon officials said Wednesday. The military will continue to use Special Forces to continue searching caves, rather than large numbers of Marines as previously contemplated, Pentagon officials in Washington told CNN. Earlier, U.S. military officials in Kandahar and in Washington indicated the Marines were on alert, waiting for an order from Gen. Tommy Franks to deploy. Anti-Taliban Afghan fighters and a small contingent of U.S. Special Forces are currently searching the caves in the Tora Bora area. Full story)

As refugees started to trickle back, Afghan leader Hamid Karzai's administration, which has a six-month mandate, resumed the task of rebuilding Afghanistan on Wednesday, with the government meeting for the second time since its inauguration. No details were immediately available but a guard at the presidential palace, where ministers' cars pulled up in the morning, said they were arriving for a government meeting. (Full story)

The man who allegedly tried to detonate plastic explosives in his shoes aboard an American Airlines flight last week attended a London mosque alongside Zacarias Moussaoui, who has been charged with conspiracy in the September 11 terror attacks in the U.S. (Full story)

At Bagram Air Base, north of the Afghan capital, Kabul, the troops received a Christmas card from local Afghan residents, The Associated Press reported. It was written mostly in Dari, the local language, but it said in English, "Merry Christmas."

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In southern Afghanistan, anti-Taliban forces Tuesday battled wounded al Qaeda fighters at a Kandahar hospital in the fourth day of a standoff that began when an al Qaeda member was handed over to U.S. forces. The remaining al Qaeda fighters were said to be heavily armed and have threatened to blow themselves up if any "foreigners" come near them. U.S. officials said U.S. Special Forces have observed the fighting but have not intervened.

In a holiday message to members of the U.S. military, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld described the armed forces as "the sharp sword of freedom." (Full story)

A Canadian citizen for whom Prime Minister Jean Chretien once went to bat is on a list of nine al Qaeda members most wanted by the United States, a list led by Osama bin Laden, The Washington Post reported in Wednesday's editions. (Full story)

John Walker, the 20-year-old Californian who fought for the Taliban in Afghanistan, at one point lived in a secret camp where he attended a small meeting with bin Laden, Newsweek magazine reported. At the meeting, "the disciple basked in the glow of his master," the magazine said in its December 31 issue.

Australian officials have begun interrogating Australian al Qaeda fighter David Hicks aboard a U.S. Navy ship, the country's Attorney General Daryl Williams said Monday. A joint Australian Federal Police and Australian Security Intelligence Organization team were conducting the interviews, which are expected to take several days. (Full story)


Who are the key members of the newly installed Afghan interim government? (Click here for more)

Now that the last Taliban stronghold has fallen, will its fleeing members still pose a threat?

Where is Mullah Mohammed Omar, the spiritual leader of the Taliban?

What kind of permanent government will next rule Afghanistan?

How will a multinational peacekeeping force be received in war-weary Afghanistan?

How long will the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan last?

What is the goal of the U.S. airstrikes over Afghanistan? What is the key to the mission's success?


George W. Bush: U.S. president

Hamid Karzai: The appointed leader of Afghanistan's interim government.

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.

Condoleezza Rice: U.S. national security adviser.

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.

Gen. Richard B. Myers: Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Gen. Tommy Franks: Head of U.S. Central Command.

Donald Rumsfeld: U.S. secretary of defense.

The Taliban: A group of Islamic fundamentalists, mainly from Afghanistan's Pashtun ethnic group, which is the country's largest ethnic group. The Taliban that gained control of most of the country by 1997 and instituted an extreme form of Islamic law.

Northern Alliance: A group of former mujahedeen fighters, mainly from minority ethnic groups that oppose the Taliban.

George Robertson: NATO secretary-general and former British defense minister.

George Tenet: CIA director


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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