WASHINGTON (AP) -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Wednesday it is gratifying to see the people of Afghanistan getting their country back but acknowledged that key Taliban leaders have yet to be found.
"Some have been killed, others are hiding, and there are no particular reports of senior leadership having been located," Rumsfeld said in New York, where he toured the World Trade Center ruins.
He said U.S. special forces are watching key roads in southern Afghanistan as Taliban militia forces flee southward.
"They have been interdicting the main roads that connect the north to the south to see what's going on and to stop people that they think ought to be stopped," Rumsfeld said during a brief news conference with New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
"We still have a ways to go" in the hunt for the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network, Rumsfeld said. "The Taliban, some pieces of it, are melting into the countryside because they have decided to toss in the towel. In other cases, they may be simply waiting to counterattack at some other time."
With the northern half of Afghanistan controlled by the anti-Taliban northern alliance, the focus of the fighting now shifts to the south, where U.S. forces have had a much more difficult time drumming up opposition to the Taliban.
The Taliban's spiritual center is the southern city of Kandahar, and its core support comes from the area's majority Pashtun ethnic group. Pentagon spokesman Dick McGraw dismissed reports Wednesday that Kandahar had fallen to rebel troops, saying, "It is far from being a stable situation anywhere yet."
Rumsfeld on Tuesday raised the possibility that leaders of the Taliban or al-Qaida terrorist network might flee across the Afghan border into Iran to the west or Pakistan to the south and east.
Rumsfeld told a Pentagon news briefing that the small number of U.S. special forces in south are not working with anti-Taliban groups as the ones in the north have.
U.S. bombs fell in Afghanistan for a 38th day.
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