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Friday, 28 December, 2001, 17:16 GMT
Bush says Afghan mission goes on
US marine helicopter in Afghanistan
Bush: mission continues for a safe Afghanistan
President Bush has said United States troops will remain in Afghanistan until they fulfil their mission - destroying the cells of Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network.

Speaking to reporters at his ranch in Texas, Mr Bush said the US-led military campaign would end when Afghanistan became a stable country.

President George w Bush
President Bush said Osama Bin Laden was intent on harming America again
The president said the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General Tommy Franks, had the final say on when military operations would end.

Mr Bush also repeated that Washington was unaware of Osama Bin Laden's whereabouts - only that he was on the run but the US would get him.

Year of war

The president addressed the reporters, flanked by General Franks.

Mr Bush feared that the coming year would be peaceful, but said he was realistic.

He said he was not sure Bin Laden's network had the capability of launching further attacks, although they continued to wish to harm America.

Commander of US forces in Afghanistan General Tommy Franks
General Franks has the final say, according to Bush
"He is not escaping us. This is a guy who three months ago was in control of a country. Now he's maybe in control of a cave."

The president said he would make the case to the American people for the mission led by General Franks - he would not have politics dictate the general's agenda.

Pockets of resistance

The general said there were al-Qaeda or Taleban cells inside Afghanistan still to be destroyed.

In the latest US attack, Americans warplanes destroyed a compound south-west of Kabul which the Pentagon believes was used by senior figures in the former Taleban government.

General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the compound was near the town of Ghazni and that the US had "very good indications" Taleban leaders were inside.

The news came amid mounting concern about civilian casualties from US raids, and calls for the bombing to stop soon.

On Thursday, an unconfirmed report by the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press said 25 residents had been killed and more injured in a night-time American raid at Naka, a village in the eastern province of Paktika.

Tribal leaders in the area have called on Afghanistan's new leader Hamid Karzai to ask the Americans to stop the attacks.

But Mr Karzai has said the strikes must continue until the last remnants of al-Qaeda and the Taleban have been destroyed.

The BBC's Andrew Burroughs
"President Bush played down the latest video statement from Osama Bin Laden"
See also:

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