Afghan Security Situation Varies Greatly
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2002 The general in charge of coalition forces in Afghanistan today called the security situation in that country dangerous and "uneven."
Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., said he is heartened by improvements within Afghanistan, but noted, "a lot remains to be done."
"We see senses of security and stability in some parts of Afghanistan, and we see ethnic and tribal issues in other parts of Afghanistan," Franks told reporters in the Pentagon. "So we just have to keep working."
The general said he's in Washington to brief Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about issues concerning Central Command, which has an area of responsibility that includes Afghanistan and Iraq.
He noted he's visited Afghanistan 10 to 15 times since military operations began there last October, and he's seen dramatic improvements in the living conditions of Afghan civilians.
"My first visits to Afghanistan had no children on the streets. Now, one sees children on the streets carrying books. You follow the children (and) you find the children go into schools that didn't exist a year ago. And when you follow the little girls, then you find they're going to school, and they hadn't done that before," Franks said in describing things that made an impression on him.
He also noted improvements to medical care. "You're able to walk into a hospital in Kabul that eight months ago had completely fallen down and had absolutely no capability to provide medical assistance to anyone, and you find that that hospital is not only treating civilians, it's actually treating women," Franks said. Under Taliban rule, he remarked, women weren't permitted to be seen by male doctors and there were no female doctors.
The general said it heartened him to hear music in the streets and see children flying kites. But, he was quick to remind that the situation isn't so rosy everywhere.
"That does not mean that we don't still see fractious behavior by some of these ethnic and tribal groups, because we do," he said. "Everything is not all calm and peaceful."
In more secure areas, civilian charitable groups, known collectively as "nongovernmental organizations," or NGOs, are free to provide aid and rebuild infrastructure. Franks called the more secure areas "magnets for nongovernmental activity."
In less secure areas, such groups are more reluctant to send their workers, he said.
Always the soldiers' soldier, Franks was quick to praise the troops under his command. "I think it serves us all, from time to time, to remind ourselves that the troopers and the sailors and the airmen from all these nations who are involved in that activity deserve our respect," he said. "They're serving our nation, and they're serving their own nations very well."