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Gates might seek more troops for Afghanistan

By Associated PRess
Published January 18, 2007


BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan - Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested Wednesday he would ask President Bush to send more troops to Afghanistan, an increase that could intensify pressure on a U.S. military already straining to wage the war in Iraq.

After two days of talks with American, NATO and Afghan officials, Gates said he was impressed with progress toward stabilizing and rebuilding Afghanistan. But he also said military commanders want to add U.S. troops to the 24,000-strong American force now there, the highest level of a 5-year-old war.

While Gates used no figures, a senior official traveling with him said the prospective increase would not be large - possibly one or two battalions, no more than a couple of thousand soldiers. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because no decision had been made.

Gates stopped short of saying he would recommend the increase, but offered a rationale for reinforcing the war effort.

"I think it is important that we not let this success here in Afghanistan slip away from us and that we keep the initiative," he told reporters traveling with him. "There's no reason to sit back and let the Taliban regroup."

A U.S. troop increase in Afghanistan would come on top of Bush's decision to send 21,500 more soldiers and Marines to Iraq in the next four months. That boost had been opposed by some in the Pentagon, who have said it could be too much stress on a force that is already sending soldiers to Iraq for multiple tours.

Informant says Taliban fugitive is in Pakistan

KABUL, Afghanistan - A captive Taliban spokesman has told Afghan agents that the hard-line militia's chief, Mullah Omar, lives in southwestern Pakistan and is protected by that country's intelligence service, according to video of his questioning given to reporters Wednesday.

Omar's whereabouts have been a mystery since he went into hiding after the Taliban was toppled by a U.S.-led invasion. The U.S. government has offered a $10-million bounty for his capture.

"He lives in Quetta," Mohammad Hanif said of Omar. "He is protected by ISI," Hanif said, referring to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

Pakistan's Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao disputed Hanif's claim. "We have no information on the whereabouts of Mullah Omar. He is not living in Pakistan," he said.



[Last modified January 18, 2007, 00:53:04]

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