1. Journalists surrounding Major Bryan Hilferty, spokesman for the 10th Mountain Division
2. SOUNDBITE: (English) Major Bryan Hilferty, spokesman for the 10th Mountain Division
"Today, in the last 24 hours the fighting has been light but the weather is extremely bad. As you know they are fighting at 8-12 thousand feet, the temperatures are cold, its raining and snowing, just as its cold here. We have continued to conduct search and attack missions through the objective area and clearing the objective Shah-e-Kot valley. We are also continuing to conduct re-supply missions and re-organise and re support our forces. "
4. SOUNDBITE (English) Major Bryan Hilferty, spokesman for the 10th Mountain Division
"It's not a stalemate at all we are not willing to risk great amounts of casualties. America and the coalition certainly are willing to have casualties in this fight, but we won't just through people away needlessly. So when we find them we will go and make then surrender or we will kill them. We are going to search the cave we are going to search the entire area, we are not going to do it carelessly we are going to conserve our resources. Fine men and women fighting this war on terrorism. They still have two choices surrender or die. We are using fire support and we are continuing to kill them."
Driving winds and snow forced Al-Qaida holdouts to retreat into caves in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, as U.S. forces pushed ahead in the biggest U.S.-led military offensive of the Afghan war.
Bombing of the icy, rugged mountains in the Paktia province eased early in the day, but U.S. ground troops continued offensive operations to root out the fighters.
During the last 24 hours fighting had been light, slowed by extreme conditions said Major Bryan Hilferty, the spokesman for the 10th Mountain Division speaking to journalists in Bagram on Saturday.
To help finish Al-Qaida off, the interim administration of Hamid Karzai dispatched convoys of new Afghan fighters into the battle area. However, the new troops were ethnic Tajiks from the north, and their presence was already exacerbating ethnic tensions in the largely Pashtun area.
Afghan provincial commanders in the Paktia region held a shura or council meeting to find a way to force the convoy to return to the Afghan capital, Kabul. Ahmed Shah, a local government official, insisted that the ethnic Tajiks should pull back.
Despite snow, bitter cold and dense clouds in the mountains, allied forces cleared caves, land mines and flew reconnaissance and bombing missions over the Shah-e-Kot range where the battle has raged since last week.
The intensity of battle tapered off Friday, with only sporadic clashes.
U.S. officers say around 500 to 600 Al-Qaida and holdouts have been killed since the offensive began last weekend. The death toll is far higher than U.S. estimates of the size of the entire enemy force when the operation began.
The confirmed coalition toll remained at eight U.S. servicemen and three Afghans.
Before storm clouds moved in Friday afternoon, U.S.-led forces clashed with Al-Qaida remnants in the southern sector of the 60-square-mile (155-square-kilometer) operation area.
Hilferty said al-Qaida forces had suffered lots of casualties over the past 24 hours but gave no figure.