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Extremists Still Pose Threat in Afghanistan, Says US Commander - 2002-11-29


The top U.S. general responsible for coalition forces in Afghanistan says the war on terrorism is on track, but that extremists still pose a threat to stability in up to one-third of Afghanistan.

Over the past week, General Franks has been on a fact-finding tour, observing U.S. and coalition operations in countries in the region. General Franks says in Afghanistan, remnants of the Taleban and Al-Qaida still pose a threat in up to one-third of the country.

The commander-in-chief of the U.S. Central Command says while Afghanistan is still not completely secure, the coalition forces he commands are committed to eventually achieving that goal. "I think the truth of it is, while an awful lot has been done in Afghanistan, this is Afghanistan," he said, "and we are just going to have to stay with it for as long as it takes to do that one thing that I talked about, which is to be sure we do not permit terrorism to re-take Afghanistan, and find ourselves the way we were a year-and-a-half ago."

Recently, senior U.S. military officials disclosed they were considering shifting the emphasis of coalition forces in Afghanistan from combat operations to so-called civilian-military operations, primarily reconstruction efforts aimed at helping the civilian population.

General Franks said the shift will simply mean modifying combat operations, so that more security can be provided for reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. "What we know we need to do is we need to continue to set security conditions inside Afghanistan, so that the Afghans themselves can get this country under control," he stated.

"That is not new news to us. It is a matter of focus for us... I stay away from terms like nation-building, or peacekeeping, or peacemaking. We are talking about simply changing, or modifying, the focus that we put into kinetics [combat operations] - which we are going to continue to do in this country, as long as we need to - and how much we put into the business of reconstruction," added General Franks.

Under the operation, coalition forces will establish regional bases across Afghanistan, where, with the help of U.N. agencies and non-governmental organizations, reconstruction efforts to help civilians will be carried out.

General Franks says the U.S. military is ready to start the operation at any time, once the final decision is made.

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