WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. commanders in the biggest ground operation of the war in Afghanistan have rejected an Afghan ally's proposal to halt bombing and allow al-Qaida and Taliban to surrender or escape, officials said Tuesday.
"We have made it very clear that we are not going to halt things ... we are not going to stop the fighting to make any deals," said Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman.
He said commanders in the field have stressed to allied Afghan fighters that they will pursue their plan to destroy remnants of the al-Qaida terrorist network and former Taliban government remaining in a 60-square-mile area where an assault began March 2.
Lapan was responding to questions about the U.S. position on a proposal to allow remaining enemy fighters to leave the province where the fighting is occurring.
The offer was made by Gul Haider, commander of an Afghan force sent to the battle near the eastern town of Gardez last week by interim leader Hamid Karzai, according to the deputy police chief of Surmand, Ghulam Mohammed Farooq.
Farooq said Haider told local leaders that if they wanted to extend a peace offer, he could guarantee a 10-day halt in the fighting if the al-Qaida and Taliban commander "is ready to join us or leave the area."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Monday that the fighting near Gardez could be completed by the end of the week.
The fighting has taken place in the Shah-e-Kot Valley, a mountainous region near the Pakistani border. Some officials have estimated that more than 700 al-Qaida fighters were killed and at least 200 were still holding out Monday.
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