Special Forces seen leaving Tora Bora
TORA BORA, Afghanistan (CNN) -- There was evidence Friday from eastern Afghanistan that suggested a possible shift of strategy in the American military operation there.
For weeks, an unknown number of U.S. Special Forces troops have been involved in the effort that drove al Qaeda fighters out of the Tora Bora area. They also have been involved in the search of cave complexes there.
CNN's Walter Rodgers saw two convoys of U.S. Special Forces troops in the heart of the Tora Bora area that appeared to be leaving.
Each convoy was led by a pickup truck loaded with supplies, followed in one case by Special Forces members on six all-terrain vehicles and in a separate case by Special Forces members on 25 ATVs, all heavily packed with equipment. They were headed down a road that would take them to Jalalabad from Tora Bora.
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday that Afghan anti-Taliban groups are assisting U.S. forces as they search for al Qaeda members in caves in the eastern Afghanistan region.
"We also have U.S. Special Forces with them," he said. "So both those factions are working."
When asked if it was too dangerous for U.S. forces to go into the caves, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said: "Absolutely not."
"From the very beginning, we said that we were going to have the Afghan forces that were in that region work the problem. To the extent they needed additional help, we would try to get Afghan forces from other regions of the country.
"And to the extent they needed additional help, we would use U.S. forces. There are U.S. forces currently with the Afghan forces doing that job. That is exactly the way it's always been," Rumsfeld said.
The United States is now offering anti-Taliban fighters incentives to search caves, the Pentagon says. Those incentives include weapons, money, clothes, food or other aid.
"Obviously, there are many ways to incentivize the opposition groups, and it may be that cold weather clothing is more important than money and so forth. But all that is being worked to solicit their cooperation in this endeavor," Myers said.
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