General: NATO Troops ‘Well Postured’ for Continued Success in Afghanistan
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 11, 2007 Coalition forces are “well postured” to deal with Taliban remnants in southern Afghanistan and help spread good governance there, the former commander of Combined Forces Command Afghanistan said today on CNN’s “Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer.”
“There has been a problem with the reconstitution of Taliban command and control, that does enjoy sanctuary and does enjoy safe haven in southern Afghanistan,” Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry said. “Against that, … we’re very well postured for success.”
In September 2001, 90 percent of Afghanistan was under Taliban control, he said. “That regime has been toppled,” he said. “There’s been enormous pressure that has been put against the network.”
Eikenberry, who spent 21 months commanding coalition forces in Afghanistan, said there is definitely going to be more fighting in southern Afghanistan as the Taliban tries to challenge the expansion of NATO forces there. “We expect the Taliban will surge, but NATO military presence is stronger than ever,” he said.
He said he was heartened by the increase of the Afghan military’s combat power and the growing influence of the Afghan government into ungoverned areas.
“There’s no place in Afghanistan today -- six years into this campaign -- there’s no place Taliban extremists have been able to enter that has already (been) secured by the government of Afghanistan,” he said. “It’s very much a matter of ungoverned space, and this has got to be understood by all of us.”
Eikenberry explained that Taliban activity is likely to increase as the weather improves in the spring, but NATO forces are prepared “to preempt Taliban efforts,” he said.
Osama bin Laden is probably still alive, but the general emphasized the war on terror is about more than just bin Laden. “The war against international terror is not about one individual,” Eikenberry said. “Global terrorism is a phenomena which has many leaderships nodes. It has financing nodes, it has training facilities, and it also generated recruits.”
Even so, the search for bin Laden will continue, he said. “This man has committed mass crimes and atrocities against the American people, and our military will not rest until that man is found, captured or killed,” he said.
Eikenberry also talked about Iran’s influence in Afghanistan. He said there is no direct evidence that Iran is giving equipment or weapons to the Taliban, but Iranian security organizations do maintain contacts with the Taliban. Iran probably helps finance and train Taliban fighters, he said.
The Shiite dominated Iranian government does not want a return of Sunni Taliban extremism in neighboring Afghanistan, he said.
“However, they (Iran) may be hedging their bets and maintaining tactical kinds of alliances with extremists in Afghanistan,” he said. “It would be a hedged strategy, in case we should have more tension or conflict with Iran.”