Powell Calms India; Special Forces Ready

"We call on all the parties to pause all military action to allow food to be delivered in safety and in sufficient quantities to keep people alive through the winter," said aid worker Nick Rosevear.

‘Jihad Against the Infidel’

Reports indicate there are breaks within the Taliban, but the Taliban regime's leader has reportedly exhorted his soldiers to fight to the death.

"It is jihad against the infidel like the one we waged against the Soviets," Mullah Mohammad Omar said in a radio broadcast, according to the Afghan Islamic Press.

As Powell worked to reaffirm ties between New Delhi and Washington, the United States' anti-terror coalition got a boost from Australia.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said that in response to a telephone request from President Bush, the country would begin deploying 1,550 troops and assorted military hardware to the Persian Gulf region to join U.S. and British forces already in the area. Among the Australian troops will be elite Special Air Service forces.

Friendship Reaffirmed

Powell met with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today in an attempt to calm tensions that may have developed due to the closer military, intelligence and economic ties between the U.S. and Pakistan that have emerged during the U.S.-led anti-terrorism campaign.

The simmering dispute between India and Pakistan over control of the Kashmir region has been boiling over again this week, with troops exchanging fire near the contested mountain border. India says that terrorists based in Pakistan were behind the suicide bombing that killed 38 people at a state assembly building in Srinagar on Oct. 1.

"The issue of Kashmir is one that has to be resolved between India and Pakistan," Powell said. "The United States is a friend of both of those nations. And to the extent that both nations can find our efforts to be helpful in some way or other we would like to be useful."

Hours after Powell and Vajpayee appeared together to say that their two countries remain committed to friendship, in Islamabad earlier this week, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf announced that his troops were being put on high alert because Indian military movements had been detected along the front line in Kashmir.

Powell also announced that President Bush had invited Vajpayee to Washington for talks on Nov. 9.

Bush Hitting the Road, Too

The final stop on Powell's trip through Asia will be Shanghai, China, where he will meet Bush and the two will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Bush left Washington today, and was due to make a stop on the West Coast before crossing the Pacific.

APEC has aleady reached a consensus on a statement condemning terrorism, but the president's presence at the summit is considered important to ensure that support for the U.S.-led military action does not weaken. Two moderate Islamic nations, Malaysia and Indonesia have both been critical of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan.

The White House dismissed fears that Bush could be in danger on the trip, and said that there would be no problem for him to remain in touch with his administration and direct the ongoing campaign against the Taliban.

"The president has absolute faith in the Secret Service to secure his safety," presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "Presidents before have traveled to places that were dangerous, and Shanghai certainly does not fit that description."

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