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US General: Anti-terrorist Fight in Afghanistan Far From Over - 2002-05-21


The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan says much dangerous work remains to be done in the country. But General Tommy Franks says the overall situation is getting better.

General Franks tells reporters U.S. and coalition forces are continuing to carry out security sweeps and reconnaissance operations around Afghanistan, aimed at killing or capturing the last remaining al-Qaida terrorists.

General Franks says there have been sporadic engagements over the past week with what he calls small groups of enemy soldiers. He says coalition forces also continue to discover weapons caches.

But speaking from his headquarters in Tampa in the southern U.S. state of Florida, General Franks says that overall, things are improving.

"My assessment is that the general stability in Afghanistan continues to improve," he said. "But I will be also quick to point out that the situation there remains very fragile, remains problematic because there are, in fact, pockets of enemy remaining in that country."

General Franks says he is particularly pleased that training has begun for a new Afghan national army. He calls it one of the most important projects underway in Afghanistan because the force will be what he terms an essential element of the country's long-term security.

General Franks says he hopes to have from 2,000 to 3,000 trained soldiers within six months. He says he is cautiously optimistic the training process will help forge a unified force that can overcome traditional rivalries among Afghanistan's various tribal groups.