WASHINGTON (AP) From a never-imagined war to a micromanaged manhunt, the pursuit of justice for the terrorist attacks has shifted in the three months since Sept. 11.

At home, the horrific attacks cast a pall over the economy and the holiday season. Abroad, backed by U.S. firepower, local fighters routed the Taliban out of its last stronghold last week, forcing the core still loyal to Osama bin Laden and his now-fugitive host, Mullah Mohammed Omar, into the hills.

Both men remain very much wanted by the United States, and officials warned that although the war is on a different footing, it is far from over.

U.S. involvement was likely to deepen as emphasis shifts to the hard-core supporters. Marines mobilized near the fallen Taliban stronghold of Kandahar yesterday to cut off escape routes for Taliban leaders and fighters from bin Laden”s terror network.

“There are still a lot of senior al-Qaida and senior Taliban people left,” said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. “Our job has got a long way to go.”

In some respects, it”s come a long way.

In 66 days since the bombing began Oct. 7, coalition forces have shredded the Taliban as a political and military force.

Al-Qaida terrorist training camps have been destroyed and B-52s are dropping heavy bombs on a network of caves in eastern Afghanistan.

Nine U.S. personnel have died, and the numbers of Afghan casualties while difficult to assess are likely in the thousands.

Even as its soldiers keep fighting, the United States” diplomats are pressing the case for a stable postwar Afghanistan, working closely with the United Nations to set up the provisional government.

Four Afghan factions have agreed to a six-month interim government and named a leader, Hamid Karzai. The scion of a ruling family respected at home for his nationalism and in the West for his moderate outlook, Karzai pledged to restore rights for women naming two to his Cabinet and rejected any truce that would allow Omar to go free.

The Bush administration hoping to draw Islamic nations into a postwar effort to stabilize the region has stressed the mission”s humanitarian thrust. So far, U.S. aircraft have dropped 2.1 million food packs to war-beleaguered Afghans.

Yesterday in Kabul, Americans reclaimed the U.S. Embassy 12 years after it was abandoned.

Progress in the war did little to stem the economic downturn that Sept. 11 accelerated.

The nation”s unemployment rate shot up to 5.7 percent in November and the job loss total for the past two months hit 800,000, the worst in more than two decades. The figures reflect huge post-attack layoffs across a swath of the U.S. economy, with airlines and other travel industries particularly hard-hit.

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