Bush Senior warns of long and difficult fight

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The Independent US

The former US president, George Bush Senior, today issued a warning that the war against terrorism would be a long-drawn-out conflict.

He said the conflict was going to be different to the Gulf War he fought during his time as leader.

Speaking on BBC's Breakfast With Frost, Mr Bush said: "It's going to be a different kind of battle. But there's a determination among world leaders that we will win."

Mr Bush's comments came as the Foreign Office claimed the Taliban's grip on power in Afghanistan was starting to slip.

With the Taliban continuing to defy US demands to hand over Osama bin Laden - blamed by America for the September 11 atrocities - Foreign Office Minister Ben Bradshaw yesterday said evidence was emerging of cracks in the regime.

"We know that what is happening on the ground in Afghanistan is that the grip of the Taliban is weakening and the divisions that have been there for some time are becoming wider and wider. That is good news," he said.

The minister refused to disclose how the Foreign Office had obtained its intelligence on the regime.

His claim came after US officials had taken the unusual step of disclosing that special forces had been carrying out "scouting" missions inside Afghanistan in preparation for possible military strikes.

Mr Bradshaw would not comment on reports that the British SAS had been operating alongside the US special forces, although he acknowledged that such missions had been carried out.

"I don't think anyone would be surprised that activities of a reconnaissance nature have been taking place," he said.

A report that three US special forces commandos had been captured inside Afghanistan was denied both by the Pentagon and by Taliban representatives in Kabul.

The claim surfaced on the al-Jazeera satellite television station in the Gulf state of Qatar which reputedly has good contacts with bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.

It claimed that the three soldiers, together with two Afghan guides, had been seized by Taliban forces carrying weapons and maps showing al-Qaida bases.

In his weekly radio address to Americans, US president George W Bush said that the US would "aggressively and methodically" hunt down the terrorists wherever they "hide, or run, or plan".

He again emphasised however that much of the "war" against terrorism would be fought covertly, unseen by the public.

"Some victories will be won outside of public view, in tragedies avoided and threats eliminated. Other victories will be clear to all," he said.