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SAS scouting missions.

THE SAS and their US counterparts are working inside Afghanistan on secret scouting missions, it was confirmed last night.

The troops have been deployed in the country for reconnaissance missions to pave the way for possible full-scale military action against the country.

The deployments were confirmed by a senior official in Washington, who said they were not there to seek Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect believed to have masterminded the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US.

There had been claims in Pakistan and the US that the forces had been sent in to hunt down bin Laden.

But the Bush administration official denied the reports, while CNN reported that the special forces have been in the region for several days. There have been unconfirmed reports that two or possibly three US transport planes arrived at airfields in Uzbekistan, which has offered bases and air space to coalition forces.

And an anonymous US official told CNN the British presence was crucial to the operations and was reported to have said: "The British are better at these things than us."

Both Mr Bush and his official spokesman have refused to comment publicly on the deployments.

The undercover forces will rely on SAS knowledge of the terrain gathered when they helped train the Mujahideen, the guerrillas who fought the Soviets in the 1980s. Britain is understood to have deployed intelligence operatives in the country as part of the fight against drugs.

These have now switched focus to bin Laden.
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Title Annotation:Leader
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 29, 2001
Words:248
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