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The commander of the operation near Gardez said the U.S.-led offensive had cleared several enemy caves honeycombing the mountains.

"We've got confirmed kills in the hundreds," Maj. Gen. Frank Hagenbeck told a news conference at Bagram air base north of Kabul. "We truly have the momentum at this point."

He said U.S. intelligence had pointed to 150 to 200 enemy fighters in the hills of the Shah-e-Kot mountain range when the operation began on Friday. By Wednesday, however, he estimated that as many as 600 to 700 al-Qaida and some Taliban troops had filtered into the territory.

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Part 1: Changing perspective

* The new views from America

* Hard choices on defense

Part 2: About face on Sudan

* U.S. warms to 'rogue' regime

Part 3: Who defines terrorist?

* For Syria, opportunity and peril

* In Lebanon, no black and white

Part 4: Distant echoes

* U.S. crosses a line in Colombia

* Broadcasts make Prague a target

Part 5: Spinning on the 'axis'

* 'Axis' missiles fall short

* Where China fits in

Part 6: Special forces

* The 'special forces' war

* The perils of new tactics

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The new views from America

"Conservatively speaking right now, I'm convinced from the evidence I've seen that we've killed at least half of those enemy forces," he said.

Eight U.S. troops have been killed in the operation, seven of them in two incidents Monday in which two U.S. helicopters came under fire. Around



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