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US General Continues Talks in Southeast Asia - 2003-07-29


The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Meyers, has completed two days of talks in India, before moving on to discussions in neighboring Pakistan. The war on terrorism and the situations in Afghanistan and Iraq are all on the agenda.

General Myers insists that his visit was part of routine consultations with his Indian counterparts, and not aimed at pressuring India to send troops to help stabilize post-war Iraq. Earlier this month, the Indian government rejected such a request by Washington, and said it would only send troops to Iraq under a United Nations mandate.

General Myers told reporters at a news conference in New Delhi Tuesday, the troop issue did not come up in his discussions. But, he said the overall situation in Iraq did. The general says, while the far north and south of Iraq are stable, the central part of the country is still a war zone.

"It's the central part of the country, that area between Baghdad and Tikrit -- and you draw a big oblong circle in there -- that is where 80 percent of the attacks are happening," he says. "Between Tikrit and Baghdad is still a war zone in many cases."

General Myers says attacks against U.S. forces are coming mainly from remnants loyal to the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein. But, he acknowledged criminal elements and some foreign fighters may also be to blame for some of the incidents.

The U.S. military chief says more Iraqis are coming forward to help coalition forces track down hidden weapons and Saddam loyalists. He says that is how American troops were able to find Saddam Hussein's two sons last week.

Military and security relations between India and the United States have expanded since the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. Security in South Asia remains a major concern for Washington, as it seeks to stabilize Afghanistan and hunt down remaining al Qaida elements.

General Myers stresses the United States wants what he calls a "robust" coalition in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

"In September, NATO will take over the interim assistance force in Kabul, and we have about 10,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and around 2,500 other coalition forces that are operating with us," he says. "We think the war on terrorism and creating stable countries in both Afghanistan and Iraq are important to the international community."

The situation in Afghanistan is also expected to figure prominently in talks between General Myers and officials in Pakistan.

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