According to senior Pentagon officials, the troops are “mopping up” a shrinking force of al-Qaida fighters who have been the target of 11 days of fighting and more than 2,500 bombs. Despite these efforts, the U.S. cautioned the battle was not yet over.
“Much fewer in number, al-Qaida forces are still holed up in small pockets scattered throughout the area,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. John Rosa.
“There is clearly still work to be done, and there are clearly other pockets of resistance we expect will pop up in other parts of Afghanistan,” Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke added.
According to senior Afghan general Abdullah Joyenda, the allied advance sent rebels fleeing towards the Pakistan border.
Gen. Joyenda also said U.S. and Afghan forces now control the entire Shah-i-Kot area, which is about 20 miles east of Gardez. Gardez is the capital of Paktia Province, bordering Pakistan.
As “Operation Anaconda” winds down, Afghan leaders admit to considering a plan that would have halted fighting and allowed enemy survivors to leave the area unharmed.
U.S. commanders rejected the plan, declaring any halt in fighting unacceptable.
“We have made it very clear that we are not going to halt things… we are not going to stop the fighting to make any deals,” said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Lapan.
“Operation Anaconda” began 11 days ago, and is the biggest U.S.-led battle of the five-month Afghan war against the Taliban and the al-Qaida network.
More than 800 U.S. soldiers are operating with a similar number of Afghan and other allied troops in the 60-square-mile Shah-i-Kot Valley.
Eight Americans have died in the operation and more than 80 members of the allied forces have been wounded.