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U.S. confirms troops in Pakistan

Rumsfeld/Nazarbayev
U.S. Defense boss Rumsfeld with Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev  


From CNN Correspondent Patty Davis
at the Pentagon and wires

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. troops are assisting Pakistani forces in tracking down suspected al Qaeda and Taliban fighters inside Pakistan, the Pentagon has confirmed.

But the U.S. military refused to confirm Sunday reports that U.S. troops are taking part or leading raids in Pakistan.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Lapan said fewer than 10 Americans were involved in the Pakistani operation to coordinate communication links with U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

"The idea is tracking down the movements of al Qaeda," said Lapan.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld continues his trip through Central Asia rallying support for the U.S. war on terrorism.

He met Sunday with Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev and will head to Moscow for a meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov.

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Kazakhstan's defense chief, Gen. Col. Mukhtar Altynbayev, said his government planned to increase its involvement in Afghanistan, Associated Press reports.

He mentioned transporting and donating humanitarian aid, and working out an agreement so U.S. and allied aircraft could use at least one Kazakh airfield in the event of emergency. Kazakhstan already allows coalition aircraft to use its airspace.

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"Kazakhstan confirmed its desire and its real participation in the struggle against terrorism," the defense chief, speaking through an interpreter, said at a news conference at the presidential palace.

Rumsfeld said Kazakhstan played an important role in the international coalition against terrorism.

"We are anxious to do everything we possibly can to see that Afghanistan does not go back to becoming a haven for terrorists or sanctuary for terrorists," Rumsfeld said.

As for possible U.S. military action in Iraq, Lapan said the military is working on the broad outlines for a confrontation with Iraq.

Echoing past comments of Bush administration officials, he said Iraq poses a threat because it is pursuing weapons of mass destruction including nuclear and chemical weapons and has not allowed weapons inspections since 1998.

The United States is concerned, Lapan said, that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could put those weapons of mass destruction into the hands of terrorists.

'Speculation'

"It creates a scenario we don't like to contemplate," he said.

Lapan called reports that the United States would use between 70,000 and 250,000 troops in a combined air and ground campaign, and that the timing on that offensive has been put off until early next year, "premature".

"We have said publicly that Iraq poses a threat to the world because of its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

"Any military action involving Iraq would require the approval of the president, and no decisions have been made," Lapan said.

"Iraq is a focus of interagency discussion ... any discussion of troops and air power is speculation."

A Pentagon official said a consensus has emerged that a military coup against Hussein from within Iraq probably wouldn't succeed in toppling him.



 
 
 
 







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