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Sunday, 21 October, 2001, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Eliminate Bin Laden, CIA told
Osama Bin Laden
The CIA has been ordered to hunt down Bin Laden
President Bush has authorised the CIA to use lethal force to eliminate Osama Bin Laden and key members of his al-Qaeda organisation, the Washington Post has revealed.

The president has given the agency the green light to do "whatever is necessary" in operations against al-Qaeda, a US official told the paper.

The gloves are off

US official
The decision follows commando raids on two Taleban targets in southern Afghanistan on Saturday.

But Vice-President Dick Cheney told the same newspaper that the campaign against terrorism would last a very long time.

You can't predict a straight line to victory," he said.

"It is different than the Gulf War was, in the sense that it may never end. At least, not in our lifetime," he added.

Major boost

The CIA has been handed an extra $1bn to fund covert operations and received an unprecedented order to work more closely with elite commando units.

The order, signed by President Bush last month but disclosed now for the first time, was described as the most sweeping since the founding of the agency in 1947.

American intelligence has detected "new and important" weaknesses in Bin Laden's organisation which will it will attack in lethal, secret operations, the paper quoted US sources as saying.

However a Taleban official released a statement on Sunday saying that Bin Laden and his companions were "living in complete safety".

Commando raid

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge, who is in northern Afghanistan, says the Americans are clearly determined to continue waging the war against Osama Bin Laden and the Taleban on all fronts now, having displayed their ability to stage commando raids too.

More than 100 US special forces attacked an airfield and a command and control facility near to where the Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar lived in Kandahar in the early hours of Saturday.

Pentagon video showing special forces in raid on Afghanistan
The US military says more ground raids will follow
US defence chiefs said the squad of Army Rangers did not meet significant resistance from Taleban fighters and withdrew safely after several hours.

"US forces were able to deploy, manoeuvre and operate inside Afghanistan without significant interference from Taleban forces," US Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers told a Pentagon briefing.

He said the special forces were "repositioning for potential future operations against terrorist targets in other areas known to harbour terrorists".

Air Force General Richard Myers played video clips of the operation, showing what he described as preparations on the ground, the take-off of aircraft, parachute drops and the capture and destruction of a small weapons cache.

The US suffered its first casualties of the conflict when two servicemen died after a helicopter supporting the mission crashed in Pakistan.

The BBC's Nick Bryant
"The CIA has been given the instruction to do whatever it takes"
Defence analyst Mike Ryan
"There are people more extreme than Bin Laden ready to take his place"
See also:

20 Oct 01 | South Asia
Key sites targeted by US troops
02 Oct 01 | America attacked
The CIA's greatest failure
19 Oct 01 | South Asia
US special forces 'inside Afghanistan'
01 Oct 01 | Americas
Profile: US special forces
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