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Spotlight on ground troops

German special forces on a training exercise
German special forces on a training exercise  

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The first public confirmation that some ground troops have been deployed in Afghanistan turns the spotlight on which other countries may become involved in the campaign.

A senior U.S. official in Washington told CNN on Friday that "a very limited number" of American troops had been deployed in southern Afghanistan in recent days.

Previously, reliable sources have told CNN that there had been a periodic presence of U.S. Special Operations and British Special Air Service (SAS) forces on the ground in Afghanistan.

Military analysts say small teams of special forces, probably involving the Australian Special Air Service as well as the SAS and the U.S. Delta Force, would have been instrumental in targeting the air campaign.

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Such teams will also be expected to direct any major ground forces operations.

The campaign against terror has received support from many nations around the world, but the countries that have pledged troops are Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

In his first speech after the start of the air campaign on October 7, U.S. President George W. Bush said America was "supported by the collective will of the world."

"Close friends, including Canada, Australia, Germany and France, have pledged forces as the operation unfolds," he said.

The leaders of the UK, Germany and France are due to hold a special meeting on Friday ahead of the European Union summit to discuss future military action.

Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, the only other country to have provided active military support so far, will meet with President Jacques Chirac of France and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder before the summit starts.

Special forces overview 

Blair warned on Thursday that the campaign against Afghanistan was about to enter the "most testing time."

"I don't think we have ever contemplated this being done by air power alone. We have always said there would be different phases to this operation. What is unfolding is exactly what has been planned," Blair said.

Alain Richard, the French defence minister, also spoke on Thursday about the involvement of France in the attack on Afghanistan.

"What the United States is developing is a series of limited actions on different, well-targeted sites, and it is absolutely not a step towards taking overall control of the entire territory," he said.

"Because this series of limited ground operations is surely going to last for some time, in effect it is possible that French special forces may be associated with lending a hand."

Italy and Turkey have also both offered to make troops available.

Canada has pledged to send more than 2,000 military personnel -- its largest combat force abroad since the Korean War.

Defence Minister Art Eggleton said as well four naval frigates, one destroyer and one supply ship, Canada would provide a special forces unit trained in anti-terrorism techniques.

German special forces use a helicopter during an exercise
German special forces use a helicopter during an exercise  

"The free and civilized nations of the world have joined hands to press the first great struggle for justice of the 21st century -- the struggle to defy and defeat the forces of terrorism," Prime Minister Jean Chretien said.

The Australian government has announced that it will commit 1550 troops to the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

Part of the force will be a detachment of 150 Special Air Service soldiers from their base near Perth in Western Australia.

Chief of the Defence Forces Admiral Chris Barrie said Australian troops were well prepared for the anti-terrorist operation and that all those deployed to Afghanistan would be vaccinated against biological and chemical threats.

Canberra invoked Article Four of the 50-year-old Anzus (Australia, New Zealand, U.S.) military treaty, under which an attack on American territory is considered to be an attack on Australia.

John Howard, the prime minister, has warned Australia to expect casualties, with special forces soldiers likely to participate in perilous operations.

He said: "They will be in the thick of it. They are very highly trained men, but they carry out incredibly risky, daring and dangerous tasks and in those circumstances the possibility of death, the possibility of casualties, is quite high."

Other nations have offered support.

NATO -- which for the first time ever has invoked Article 5 of the 1949 Washington Treaty, which recognises that an attack against one member should be considered an attack against all -- has already deployed a naval force to the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The naval force is part of NATO's immediate response forces and includes ships from Britain, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Turkey and the United States.

In recent days, Bush has also said that Russia is sharing intelligence and offering "strong diplomatic support."

He said the Organization of American States invoked its own collective defence clause, and Japan and South Korea have offered logistical and other support. Nations in Africa also have pledged various kinds of support.

He said that China's President Jiang Zemin expressed "his desire to join us in fighting terrorist activities."

Bush noted that there has been support from the Middle East. In particular, he cited Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as offering law enforcement, intelligence and other cooperation.


• U.S. troops are on the ground
October 19, 2001

• U.S. Department of Defence
• UK Ministry of Defence

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