U.S. General: Taliban Weakened By Afghan Reconstruction
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2005 Members of the deposed Taliban, who had hosted and supported Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network in Afghanistan, are seeking to harass and stop coalition reconstruction efforts across the country, a senior U.S. military operations officer there reported Aug. 4.
The Taliban are "losing their legitimacy" in the eyes of Afghan citizens because of myriad coalition reconstruction projects, like road building, water purification, well digging, and school- and hospital-refurbishing, conducted across Afghanistan, Army Brig. Gen. James G. Champion, deputy commanding general of operations and intelligence for Combined Joint Task Force 76, told reporters at a news briefing via an audio link to the Pentagon.
As a result, the Taliban "are becoming more ruthless and continue to try and halt reconstruction," Champion said, noting the insurgents now operate in small groups and try to avoid major engagements with coalition forces.
Afghan National Army soldiers have "taken on the main role of combating terrorist activity" in Oruzgan province, the general said. "Every time the enemy has come into contact with Afghan and coalition forces here, they have been decisively defeated," Champion said.
There are now about 18,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, Champion said, noting that U.S. and coalition forces have been aggressive in seeking out and engaging the enemy since good weather arrived this spring.
Champion said the insurgent situation in Zabul and northern Kandahar provinces is similar to that of Oruzgan: "The enemy attacks in small groups and are more cowardly in their tactics." Yet, despite enemy activity in these two provinces, there is still strong public support for the government of Afghanistan, Champion said, pointing to major coalition reconstruction projects in the region.
For example, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers soldiers and coalition troops are close to finishing the Tarin Kowt to Kandahar road, Champion said. When completed, the 122-kilometer road "will promote Afghan security, political, civic, and economic growth," the general said.
The Tarin Kowt to Kandahar road is slated for early completion on Sept. 15, just days before the Sept. 18 Afghan elections. Champion noted that more than 2,000 Afghans are working in Zabul and northern Kandahar provinces on numerous reconstruction and development projects.
"With the completion of the TK to Kandahar road, we anticipate even more job opportunities," Champion pointed out.