WASHINGTON – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Sunday that more U.S. special forces have moved into Afghanistan and that anti-Taliban fighters will be supplied through the winter.
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers said that what he expects will be a protracted war against Usama bin Laden and the ruling Taliban is "going exactly according to our plan."
There has been an increase in U.S. ground forces in the last day or so with the insertion of "a couple more teams" of U.S. special forces, Myers said on NBC's Meet the Press.
"The more teams we get on the ground, the more effectively we'll bring air power to bear on the Taliban lines," Myers said.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was in Uzbekistan on Sunday, meeting with leaders of a country that neighbors Afghanistan and is allowing about 1,000 American soldiers to be based within its borders.
"The effort to deal with the problem of terrorist networks is proceeding. It is, we believe, proceeding at a pace that is showing measurable progress," Rumsfeld said.
Rumsfeld said he "appreciated" Uzbekistan's help, but he and the Uzbek defense minister said they had not discussed expanding the U.S. presence in this former Soviet republic.
Myers said the special forces teams are working with anti-Taliban forces, who "we'll continue to resupply them right through the winter. We think they have every chance of prevailing."
The goal is to defeat the Al Qaeda terrorist network in Afghanistan and the government that provides support, said Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. forces in the war.
"We want to keep pressure on this all the time," Franks said on ABC's This Week.
Franks and Myers declined to say whether it would take a major deployment of U.S. ground troops to topple the Taliban.
Franks said "absolutely not" when asked whether he would rule out the use of a large number of ground forces. "We would be foolish to rule any thing off the table," he said.
Military officials say the United States has taken down Taliban air defenses, their transportation for resupplying their troops and their communications.
"They have a substantial force left, but at this point that's exactly what we expected," Myers said.
Also Sunday, Franks took issue with a report in The New Yorker that 12 members of the super-secret Delta Force special operations force were injured — three seriously — in a raid Oct. 20 of a house used by Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.
Pentagon officials have said two U.S. soldiers died and three others were injured in a helicopter crash in neighboring Pakistan on the night of the raid. Two Rangers were injured while parachuting onto an airfield in southern Afghanistan at the outset of the raid.
"We had a bunch of these young people who had scratches and bumps and knocks from rocks ... so it's probably accurate to say that maybe five or maybe 25 people were 'wounded,'" Franks said." "We had no one wounded by enemy fire and I think that is probably worthwhile noting."
The magazine said the 100 soldiers in the raid faced more resistance from Taliban forces than expected and had to fight their way to safety, according to the magazine's account.