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Business as Usual for the US in Afghanistan

As the world takes a break and celebrates Christmas, the US resumes its routine bombing of Afghanistan after a lull of three days.

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US marines near Kandahar

US B-52 heavy bombers pounded caves and ammunition dumps north of Kandahar, using precision-guided munitions to wipe out elusive Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network.

Hospital Drama

In the city of Kandahar eight wounded Arab al Qaeda fighters armed with guns and grenades have locked themselves up in a ward of a local hospital after a failed attempt by U.S.-backed forces loyal to city governor Gul Agha to deal with them. American troops are now engaged in exchanging gunfire with them.

New bombs to be used?

Meanwhile US special forces are planning a new foray into caves and tunnels in the Tora Bora mountain fortress, believed to be the hideout of Bin Laden. Under consideration for the operation are "thermobabric" bombs to blast the air out of the underground mountain warrens, suffocating anyone holed up inside. The Pentagon said that it was sending 10 of the experimental bombs to Afghanistan.

But the fact remains that Osama bin Laden seems to have vanished into thin air. Though many now believe him to be dead, for the US, the search for him is still officially underway.

New Deputy Defence Minister for Afghanistan

Meanwhile Afghanistan's new leader Hamid Karzai has appointed ethnic Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum as deputy defence minister in his two-day-old government.

Dostum, a feared former communist general with his own private army, siezed control of the main northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif with the assistance of U.S. air strikes that toppled the Taliban for harbouring bin Laden.

His inclusion in the new government, established under a U.N.-sponsored power sharing deal, fends off a powerful potential foe and marks a first step to establishing a national army for Afghanistan from its tribal and ethnic militias.

Karzai strikes all the right notes

Dostum’s appointment is seen as a major move towards reconciliation in the war-torn nation. Karzai has moved quickly to establish support for his 30-member cabinet, whose challenge lies in uniting a war weary country run in patches by ethnic warlords and tribal chiefs.

The new Afghan interim government has also set up a sub-committee to work out the formation of a regular army after the sticky issue of disarming of various militias and armed alliances is resolved.

The decision was taken Monday night after a marathon meeting of the core committee of the Cabinet presided over by President Hamid Karzai. The meeting was preceded by a closed-door meeting of a high ranking US delegation with the Afghan President.

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