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Sunday, 2 December, 2001, 02:17 GMT
British special forces praised by US
British Marine guides American warship
British special forces the "best in the world"
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has praised the role of British special forces in Afghanistan.

In an article for the News of the World, Mr Rumsfeld described British troops as among the best in the world and thanked the UK for its valuable support.

He praised Britain's "unhesitating and invaluable" contribution to the war against terrorism - a conflict which, he warned, was still far from over.

Mr Rumsfeld's comments emerged as the crew of a hi-tech RAF spotter plane returned on Saturday from duty in Afghanistan, saying their mission had made a difference to the war.


British special forces - some of the toughest, smartest troops in the world

Donald Rumsfeld

In the newspaper article, Mr Rumsfeld said: "American special forces are on the ground, helping the coalition, serving alongside the British special forces - some of the toughest, smartest troops in the world."

But he said that despite the progress in Afghanistan, the global war against terror was still in its early stages.

"The terrorist networks that threaten us operate in dozens of different countries, and terrorist threats against both of our nations' citizens and interests continue.
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Rumsfeld: Full of praise

"Meeting the challenges ahead will require sacrifice, determination and perseverance."

The two-man crew of the RAF Canberra PR9 flew back to RAF Marham base in Norfolk after locating targets for military action against the Taleban.

The pilot and navigator said they were pleased to return home and knew their missions had made a difference to the war effort.

Navigator, Colin, aged 46, said Marham's No 39 Squadron has been flying two sorties a day, with each sortie lasting more than four hours.

He and flight lieutenant pilot Steve, aged 29, from Nottingham, have flown together in a variety of reconnaissance aircraft every two or three days since the second week in October.

Colin said: "The reconnaissance missions we went on were to get images of places where intelligence was needed, troop concentration, military vehicles and military areas.

Morale

He added: "We re-visited the same targets and knew we were making a difference.

"And that's really what kept people doing it really."

I'm glad to be back and looking forward to a pint

Steve
RAF Flight Lieutenant

Steve said it was hard work but morale was very high.

"I'm glad to be back and looking forward to a pint."

The aircraft is the first Canberra and first of the RAF's reconnaissance aircraft to return from Operation Veritas, the UK's contribution to the US-led operation Enduring Freedom.


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