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Heavy Fighting Continues in Eastern Afghanistan

Enemy forces used machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades in an attempt to keep the U.S.-led troops from advancing further.

“There is fierce fighting. The Taliban and al-Qaida fighters have become very weak. They are running out of ammunition,” said Afghan commander Abdul Muteen, who commands 70 troops in the 1,500-strong Afghan force and receives regular reports from his fighters in the field.

Major Bryan Hilferty told Reuters that many U.S. troops had been transferred from the U.S. base in Kandahar to the Bagram base, about 30 miles north of Kabul, in order to reinforce the offensive.

The operation had been delayed for nearly 24 hours to allow for U.S. bombing by B-52s and F-16 jets. Attack helicopters also strafed the area’s mountain hideouts.

Air Force Brigadier General John Rosa told reporters that the US bombing strikes overnight had weakened Taliban and al-Qaida forces.

“We killed a lot of people,” he said. “They are not roaming around freely like they were. They are dug in, they are hunkered in.”

Eight U.S. soldiers have been killed in the operation, including six who died when their Chinook helicopter was shot down Monday.

President Bush said he mourned the American casualties, but vowed to pursue his global war on terrorism, launched after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

“We’ll take whatever means is necessary to protect our servicemen and women. And we’ll win this battle,” he said.

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