BAGRAM, Afghanistan – Efforts to hunt down Al Qaeda (search) and Taliban (search) holdouts are moving forward despite a U.S. declaration that "major combat" in Afghanistan is over, the U.S. Army said Friday.
Smaller-scale combat operations will continue, and the declaration by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will have no immediate effect on the size of the 11,500-strong multinational coalition force, U.S. Army spokesman Col. Roger King said.
"It is still a combat zone and there are still people getting shot at," King said. "There are still people performing combat missions every day and there will be for some time in the future."
But there have been no major combat operations -- involving thousands of troops -- in more than a year.
"From the perspective of the United States, as a nation, major combat operations are complete in Afghanistan (search) because we're only 8,500 U.S. soldiers here," King said. That compares with more than 150,000 U.S. soldiers still in Iraq.
But guerrilla attacks have intensified in Afghanistan in recent months, especially near the porous Pakistani border. Four U.S. troops have been killed in fighting over the past several weeks, and aid workers have also have been targeted.
Some troops continue to conduct sweeps for holdouts from the Al Qaeda terrorist network, the ousted Taliban regime and fighters loyal to a renegade warlord. Others have been assigned to civilian projects, such as building schools and digging wells.
U.S. officials are pressing donor nations and aid organizations to step up efforts to stabilize and rebuild the country.