Bush braces US for likely casualties


US President Bush today braced the United States for casualties in the Afghanistan component of the war against terrorism, warning the campaign had entered a "dangerous" phase.

With US Marines choking off the Taliban militia's last stronghold, Kandahar, "this is a dangerous period of time. This is a period of time in which we're now hunting down the people who are responsible for bombing America," he said.

"No president or commander-in-chief hopes anybody loses life in the theater, but it's going to happen. I said this early on, as the campaign began, America must be prepared for loss of life," Mr Bush told reporters.

The president's comments came as he welcomed two freed US aid workers held by the Islamic militia for three months on charges of preaching Christianity, which could have meant a death sentence for the two women.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said the deployment of some 500 US Marines -- a figure set to double in the next two days -- had gone well so far.

Referring to the Taliban and their "guests," Osama bin Laden and members of his al-Qaeda network, Mr Bush said: "We're smoking them out, they're running, and now we're going to bring them to justice."