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Violence in Afghanistan Ebbs, Flows Over Time

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2006 – The primary threats to Afghan stability include remnant Taliban members, followed by al Qaeda-affiliated and other terror groups, and criminals engaged in the opium trade, a senior U.S. military commander told Pentagon reporters here today.

"The level of violence ebbs and flows on many factors," Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 76, said from Afghanistan during a satellite new conference.

The amount of terrorist activity in Afghanistan appears to change with the weather or it may reflect the insurgents' mood at a given time, Freakley, also the commander of the 10th Mountain Division, said.

Freakley surmised that periods of relative peace experienced in Afghanistan are sometimes caused by terrorist leaders' "inability to pay the foot soldiers that comprise the different insurgent organizations and get them motivated."

American and coalition forces are learning more about the structures of the terrorist organizations operating in Afghanistan and how they are motivated, funded, led and inspired, Freakley said. "And we are attacking each of those structures in the way in which we apply governance, reconstruction and stability operations," he said.

The Taliban are religious extremists who were ousted from power in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. The Taliban had once hosted al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, now believed to be hiding in the mountainous region along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Freakley said the remaining Taliban operate in and around the southern parts of Afghanistan, including border areas with Pakistan.

Some reports say the Taliban likely will increase their activities in coming weeks and months, Freakley said. Consequently, U.S. and coalition forces are alert "for the indications of an increase in improvised explosive devices, suicide bombers, and direct-fire attacks," he said. by U.S. troops discover most terrorist-planted IEDs before they detonate, the general said, noting that of 75 IED incidents reported in Afghanistan during the past month, only 25 percent had successfully exploded against intended targets.

There may be increased fighting in Afghanistan in coming weeks, Freakley said, mostly because U.S., coalition and anti-terror Afghan forces will soon be going on the hunt to root out terrorists from their lairs. "You may see some spikes in violence," Freakley predicted.

Increases in Afghan forces and some changes in local political leadership will enable anti-terror operations to be conducted in areas relatively untouched up to now, he said.

"In many cases we're being asked by either police forces or local governors to go to areas that we would consider to have possibly been safe havens" for terrorists, Freakley explained. "And, therefore, because we're there and (terrorist) forces there don't want us to be there, there's a fight."

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Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, USA

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