Vice President Dick Cheney says recent military defeats inflicted on the Taleban in Afghanistan are a good start to what he says will be a long-term struggle against terrorism.
Mr. Cheney says the Taleban is in flight, as he put it, "virtually all over the country." His comments today (Wednesday) in Washington mirror those of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who earlier said the Taleban was in "total chaos."
Mr. Blair told parliament today (Wednesday) in Britain that while pockets of resistance may continue, he says Taleban support is evaporating. He also said he could not rule out an eventual offensive frontline role for British troops in Afghanistan.
U-S, British and Afghan officials report heavy fighting around the airport in the Taleban's southern stronghold of Kandahar. There are also reports of Taleban losses in several key provinces and the possible fall of Jalalabad.
The latest gains were reportedly made by local warlords, including ethnic Pashtuns, raising fears of factional infighting as the Northern Alliance strengthens its hold on the capital, Kabul.
Mr. Rumsfeld said he is glad to see the Taleban retreating in front of advancing opposition forces, but said the main task for U-S forces is to find the al-Qaida terrorist group and the Taleban leadership, which sheltered it.
Meanwhile, the Taleban claims its leader and Osama bin Laden are alive and well in Afghanistan.
The claim, which could not be independently confirmed, was carried by Al-Jazeera television today (Wednesday), as well as by the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP).