U-S officials say one-thousand American troops are being sent to Uzbekistan in the first major deployment of U-S ground forces in areas bordering Afghanistan, where accused terrorist Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding.
Word of the deployment came today (Friday) from an official arriving in Uzbekistan with U-S Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who is visiting the Central Asian nation to build support for the U-S - led coalition against terrorism.
The official in Mr. Rumsfeld's party says the U-S troops are "on their way" -- flying to Uzbekistan today. The troops are said to come from the 10th Mountain Division, light infantry troops based in the eastern United States.
Mr. Rumsfeld is visiting Uzbekistan as part of an intense diplomatic effort to prepare the way for an expected showdown with Afghanistan, which refuses to give up Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is visiting Pakistan today for crucial meetings with President Pervez Musharraf. Pakistan is the only country that still maintains diplomatic ties with Afghanistan's Taleban rulers.
Islamabad says the evidence against Mr. bin Laden is enough to indict him in a court of law. A Pakistan spokesman said U-S officials have provided clear evidence that Mr. bin Laden has been involved in a number terrorist attacks.
Pakistan's comments (Thursday) are the strongest yet from a Muslim country in support of Washington's contention that Osama bin Laden played a major role in the worst terrorist attack in American history.
Washington has been showing foreign leaders what U-S officials say is clear evidence that Mr. bin Laden was behind the deadly attacks.
The Taleban has said it will not hand over Mr. bin Laden, even if it receives proof of his involvement in the September 11th terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington.
A radio message from British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was broadcast into Afghanistan today expressing support for the Afghan people. Mr. Straw stressed that the fight against terrorism is not a quarrel with the people of Afghanistan, or with Islam. He promised more humanitarian aid for struggling Afghans.