Franks Says 'Much Achieved, Much Remains'
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 5, 2002 Much has been achieved in the six months since U.S. forces began combat operations in Afghanistan, yet much remains to be done, "and it will continue to be dangerous business in the days ahead," Army Gen. Tommy Franks said today.
"Terrorism remains an international threat, but in fact, the threat will be defeated," he said. "The outcome is not in doubt."
During a teleconference with Washington and Tampa reporters, the commander of U.S. Central Command noted that April 7 marks six months since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom. He expressed gratitude for the resolve and support of the American people.
He also thanked America's service members and the coalition of 69 nations -- including 35 with troops deployed in the region -- for their accomplishments to date. The commander said the troops' resolve and dedication are "great."
"They know precisely why they're there. They understand their mission, and they're doing it very well," Franks said. The situation the military men and women found in Afghanistan six months ago, he noted, was a far cry from what it is today.
"On Oct. 7, the Taliban controlled more than 80 percent of Afghanistan, and Afghanistan was a terrorist-sponsored state," Franks said. "Some 7 million Afghans on that date were reported to be in danger of starving or freezing. Women couldn't work, couldn't attend school, couldn't receive medical treatment. The al Qaeda used Afghanistan as a safe haven to plan, encourage and finance global terrorism.
"Today, Afghanistan has an interim government," Franks said. "The international community has united to give Afghanistan a chance.
"The Taliban is no longer in power. Al Qaeda has been severely damaged. Schools and hospitals have reopened. People in Afghanistan are receiving humanitarian support from international organizations and nongovernmental organizations who are now free to operate across that country."
Today, Franks noted, about 6,500 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan along with about the same number of coalition troops. Along with providing stability, they're hunting remaining terrorists and gathering intelligence to help prevent future attacks around the world. They're coordinating humanitarian assistance efforts and helping to open schools and hospitals.
U.S. and coalition forces also have trained the first 600 members of an Afghan national army, he said. They will be used to enhance security in the capital city of Kabul. More Afghans will undergo training in the months ahead.
"All that I've described has been, and will continue to be, dangerous," Franks stressed. "Some have given their lives to this cause. Some have been injured. It will continue to be dangerous business in the days ahead."
U.S. military officials report enemy forces have distributed pamphlets in one area of Afghanistan offering rewards for killing or capturing Americans, he said. "It confirms what we've been saying all along," Franks said. "Afghanistan remains a dangerous place.
"It's a dangerous place for our people to operate," he stressed. "It's a dangerous place for coalition forces to operate. As we all recognize, there are groups of enemy troops still in that country. That's why we've all been a little bit reluctant to predict how long our operations to kill or capture those enemy troops are going to go on."
U.S. military officials have maintained the capability to both enlarge and draw down forces inside Afghanistan, he said. In recent weeks, he added, the number of U.S. troops has dropped by several hundred.
Although it's difficult to predict what's ahead in the next six months in Afghanistan, Franks said, U.S. and coalition forces would continue to root out pockets of remaining terrorists. "We're going to continue to do that work until we in fact have satisfied ourselves that there's not the possibility of a remaining network of terrorists inside Afghanistan," he said.
Working with the international community, U.S. forces would continue to support the training of the Afghan national army and remain linked with the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
In the months ahead, he added, U.S. forces will continue to work stability issues inside Afghanistan, he added, with a primary focus on rooting out terrorists.
Reconnaissance and intelligence efforts are ongoing. "When we seize upon an area where we identify enemy forces, then we will go there and we will clear it," he said. "We react to our intelligence and simply go to confirm or deny, and then kill or capture the enemy forces we find there."