As the United States rejected as inadequate a recommendation by Afghan clerics that Osama bin Laden voluntarily leave Afghanistan, some observers around the world urged the US to exercise caution. The US Defense Department has ordered the first U.S. Army units and Air Force troops to deploy following the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, according to Army Secretary Thomas E. White. This follows the deployment of more than 100 military aircraft to the Gulf region.
US state department officials said dozens of bombers, fighters and support aircraft were being moved towards bases in the Gulf as an initial step in a military effort named "Operation Infinite Justice".
The move comes after the US Navy announced it was sending an additional aircraft carrier toward the region.
The White House National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said the United States was "repositioning some of its forces to support the President's goal" of punishing the culprits of any states found to be harbouring or supporting those behind the attacks.
Nearly 200 US warplanes are already stationed at bases in the Gulf, Turkey and the Indian Ocean region.
Washington rejected an apparent offer from Afghanistan's Taliban rulers for talks on the Saudi-born bin Laden, considered the top suspect in last week's attack which has left nearly 6,000 people dead or unaccounted for.
Clerics "recommend" bin Laden leave
In Kabul, a council of Afghanistan's most senior clerics issued an edict on Thursday urging bin Laden to leave the country. However, they stopped short of ordering his extradition, as demanded by the US.
"To avoid the current tumult and also future similar suspicions, [the clerics] recommend... Afghanistan to persuade Osama bin Laden to leave... whenever possible."
On Thursday, the Taliban indicated that bin Laden was ready to stand trial on suspicion of attacks against the US, provided Washington provided evidence of his guilt.
The clerics also called for a holy war, or jihad, to be waged against anyone who participated in a possible US attack against Afghanistan.
Pakistan "facing crisis"
On Wednesday, Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, warned his people that the country is facing its biggest crisis in 30 years.
In a televised address to the nation, Musharraf appealed for unity in the face of widespread protests against the government's decision to cooperate with the United States.
Washington has threatened military strikes against neighbouring Afghanistan unless the ruling Taliban hand over bin Laden.
Bush said on Wednesday the attacks on the United States had affected the country's economy "in a big way" as the total number of job cuts in the American aviation industry rose to almost 100,000.
US airlines are warning of possible bankruptcy unless the government acts swiftly to provide $17.5 billion in financial aid.
swissinfo with agencies