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Some Suggest Afghan Operation Has Bogged Down


The U.S. military campaign inside Afghanistan is just over three weeks old. Yet already criticism has surfaced, suggesting the operation is bogged down. Top defense officials are vehemently rejecting the notion.

Some U.S. political figures and commentators are already characterizing Afghanistan as a quagmire. Others complain U.S. forces are holding back, relying only on half-measures instead of an all-out military effort.

There have even been reports that senior Defense officials are frustrated at the allegedly slow pace of the war against al-Qaida terrorists and their Taleban supporters.

But no less an authority than the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, said such charges are simply untrue. "We're pretty much on our plan," he said. "And we are in the driver's seat. We are proceeding at our pace; we are not proceeding at the Taleban's pace or al-Qaida's pace. We can control that, and we are controlling it in a way that I think is right along with our plan that we set out."

Senior defense officials deny the United States is holding back militarily. They say, however, that there is no single weapon or tactic, no silver bullet or magic stoke, that can suddenly, perhaps overnight, bring about a decisive victory in the war against terrorists.

Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem of the Joint Staff put it this way. "All of us would wish that there was a silver bullet that we could fire and get this over with and move on to what we might have to do next, wherever it might be," he said. "That's not going to happen. So we are resolute in staying with this until it's done. We know we're making progress. We are satisfied that we're doing the right thing."

So what is the problem? Why the criticism? Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suggests the U.S. news media, seeking instant gratification, are at least partially to blame for the perception that the campaign is bogged down. Mr. Rumsfeld said the American people feel otherwise. "If you think about it, three weeks is a relatively short period of time," said Secretary Rumsfeld. "There is no question but that there are - that there is an appetite for events on the part of the media and the press, and we see it constantly. You've got to meet 24 hour news schedules, and that's not easy. In terms of the people, the American people, I sense that there's a good deal of patience and understanding of the difficulty of the task."

One problem that is affecting the U.S. military effort is what Pentagon officials describe as the Taleban and al-Qaida's use of Afghan civilians as human shields. They say the Taleban and al-Qaida are using mosques, schools and other public facilities to hide their forces and heavy weapons.

The Pentagon says it will undertake no actions that could jeopardize civilian lives.

But they insist there are ways for U.S. forces to deal with the problem. They say it may take time, but the job will be done. Already they say the Taleban and al-Qaida have suffered heavy losses, both of men and weaponry.

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