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Jones Puts Afghan Violence in Perspective

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2006 – The Taliban and al Qaeda cannot start a major insurgency in Afghanistan, but the country still faces huge problems, Marine Gen. James Jones, supreme allied commander in Europe, said today.

NATO will take over all operations in the country by the end of the year, Jones said during a Pentagon news conference today.

"From my standpoint, ... the way to understand the level of violence in Afghanistan is to not limit it to the rather simple discussion of the Taliban and al Qaeda. It's more complex than that," the general said.

"Afghanistan is on the way to recovery, but is also fighting some internal demons," he continued. "One is certainly the narcotics culture and the dependence of the economy on narcotics, which, from my standpoint, is probably the most serious problem facing the restructuring and the new path that Afghanistan would like to go on."

There is also a "fair amount" of corruption in the country, and the rule of law has not taken root everywhere there, he said. "(Afghanistan) can be a fairly violent place at times," Jones said. "But I would not discount the criminal element from simply their role in the social fabric, because it is there."

He said remnants of al Qaeda and the Taliban are still in pockets around the country, but Afghan and coalition forces are moving in to more areas, leaving fewer and fewer havens for these insurgents. "There are military forces going there, security forces going there, and that's causing another ... uptick in violence," he said.

As NATO troops move in to the southern portion of Afghanistan, centered around the city of Kandahar, Jones said he expects more attacks. "But I want to make a strong statement to say that the nations that are coming into ... the southern part of Afghanistan are coming in without any caveats or restrictions, that we will have thousands more troops on the ground than ever before in southern Afghanistan and more military capability than ever before," he said.

"And I think that if there is a test, that the outcome is going to be swift and decisive," he continued. "And then I think that you'll see that the terrorists or whoever it is that's doing it will take their business elsewhere."

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Gen. James L. Jones, USMC

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