[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Friday, 14 November, 2003, 15:28 GMT
Elusive hunt for al-Qaeda
By Frank Gardner
BBC security correspondent, Bagram airbase, Afghanistan

A US Chinook CH-47 helicopter lands to pick up troops in Afghanistan
US troops have been beefing up their presence in the remote region
In the remote mountains of Afghanistan an unusual mission is underway.

Large numbers of US troops have dropped in by helicopter to a place that has never seen Americans before.

US intelligence believes that the wild region of Nuristan and Kunar is harbouring militants linked to al-Qaeda and other groups.

Operation Mountain Resolve is aimed at destroying them and their bases. The US military has found it hard to locate al-Qaeda.

Now, it says, its troops have fought some gun battles up here but that their enemy has been running away.

'Dangerous terrain'

The US admits this is not an easy operation.

A US soldier is on guard near Bagram airbase after an attack by rebels
There are frequent clashes between US-led forces and rebel fighters

"This is some of the toughest terrain in Afghanistan," says Major Rodney Davis.

"It's some of the most dangerous terrain we've operated in since we've been in Afghanistan. Needless to say it has an impact on the soldiers involved in the operation."

US war planes are also involved, called in by the troops on the ground.

The air force considers this operation such a high priority, it has even diverted some of its planes from Iraq.

They have been flying ahead of the ground troops to warn them of what lies ahead.

Hunting 'elusive enemy'

We found this pilot as she was returning from a mission over Nuristan.

"We were just up there last night and they're moving," says Captain Jennifer Short.

"From last night just to today, they've made some progress and they sound good. So I think it must be going pretty well."

However, she would not be drawn on details.

For several days now this airbase at Bagram has been sending helicopters and attack aircraft up into the mountains of Nuristan.

They are hunting an elusive enemy.

But in the backs of everybody's minds is the possibility - just the possibility - that Osama Bin Laden himself could be up there.


SEE ALSO:
US keeps up Afghanistan offensive
12 Nov 03  |  South Asia
Taleban retaking land says UN
25 Oct 03  |  South Asia
Taleban 'terror chief' arrested
20 Oct 03  |  South Asia
Afghanistan 'out of control'
10 Aug 03  |  South Asia
US troops in Afghan gun battle
30 Sep 03  |  South Asia
Seven die in 'Taleban' ambush
28 Sep 03  |  South Asia


RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific