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Saturday, May 18, 2024

U.S. opens ground phase of terrorism war; Pentagon promises long stay

U.S. special forces have begun the ground phase of America's war against terrorism in Afghanistan, operating in small numbers in southern Afghanistan in support of the CIA's existing effort in the Taliban heartland, defense officials said Thursday. 




Their presence on the battlefield comes amid growing indications that the war's intensity is about to increase dramatically after 11 days of U.S. and British airstrikes that Pentagon officials say have pummeled the defenses of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia. 




The number of U.S. personnel on the ground is just a handful now and is unlikely to ever resemble the large number of conventional forces assembled for the Persian Gulf War a decade ago, defense officials said. But their presence marks a turning point in only the second week of the conflict, heightening the risk to U.S. forces and underscoring the seriousness of the Bush administration's commitment to prosecuting its war against terrorism. 




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Troops deployed in the war against terrorism should expect to be away from home longer than military personnel have at any time since World War II, senior Pentagon officials are cautioning servicemen and women stationed around the world. 




In a radio address broadcast Wednesday night on military networks, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Pentagon is likely to discard the personnel rotation schedule used in peacetime that limits the time troops are separated from their families. 




While a transcript of the radio address was not made available, a defense official said Myers told troops, 'We're going to do everything we can to manage this thing, but we're in a brand-new situation, so buckle your chin straps.' 




'I firmly believe that this is the most important tasking the U.S. military has been handed since the Second World War,' Myers said at a Pentagon briefing Thursday. 'And what's at stake here is no less than our freedom to exist as an American people, so there is no option but success.' 






U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld formally accepted a set of principles Thursday that the Pentagon and the media agreed to after the Persian Gulf War to assure open and independent coverage of future military action. 




Several reporters who attended an hourlong Pentagon meeting with Rumsfeld and his aides came away feeling 'cautiously optimistic that we're headed in the right direction' on gaining more access to U.S. troops, said Robin Sproul, Washington bureau chief for ABC News. 






A New Jersey postal worker and an assistant to CBS News anchor Dan Rather have contracted the skin form of anthrax, bringing to six the number of people known to have been infected by the bacterium in a series of bioterrorist attacks, federal health authorities said Thursday. 




Thursday night, a second New Jersey postal worker also was reported to show symptoms of skin anthrax, which would bring the total number of known infections to seven. Federal health officials also said they are investigating several other possible cases of anthrax linked to New York and Florida.

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