U.S. Will Combat Terrorism 'As Long as it Takes'
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 3, 2002 Ask George W. Bush about his field commander in Afghanistan, and he'll describe Army Gen. Tommy Franks as a "down-to-earth, no-nonsense" kind of guy.
"Precisely the kind of man we need to lead a complex mission such as this," the president said after meeting with Franks in Crawford, Texas, at the close of the year. Bush said the commander is "fulfilling the mission with patience, discipline and success."
The military's commander-in-chief invited the U.S. Central Command chief to Prairie Chapel Ranch where the first family spent the holidays. As it turns out, Franks "is no stranger to Texas," the president noted. The general was raised in Midland, Texas, and went to Midland Lee High School at about the same time as First Lady Laura Bush.
"A couple of months ago, a lot of people said that this administration and our military weren't really sure what we were doing, but I had confidence all along," Bush told reporters during a Dec. 28 press conference. His confidence, he said, was based on briefings he'd received from Franks on the strategy and on how the general planned to use the United States military. "And he hasn't let us down," Bush concluded.
Franks attributed the mission's success so far to the "great young people" -- the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines "doing the work for the nation."
The general and his wife recently visited troops on the front lines in Kandahar and at Camp Rhino, as well as others deployed in nations neighboring Afghanistan. He also attended the installation ceremony for the interim Afghan government led by Hamid Karzai.
"For the first time in decades," Franks said, "more than 26 million people will have an opportunity to have their way represented in that government."
Franks said he'd been eager to tell the president what's going on in the theater and how America's troops are doing and how they feel about it. More than 50 nations are now involved in the coalition effort against terrorism, Franks said. This includes 26 nations represented at Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla., and 16 on the ground, in the air or at sea around Afghanistan.
Over the past 10 days, the general noted, the numbers have increased. "I think the view is that Afghanistan is a part of a global effort against terrorism, (and) that we'll stay in Afghanistan as long as it takes to do what the president has said," he told reporters.
The U.S. objective is to do away with the Taliban and destroy the Al Qaeda terrorist network inside Afghanistan, Franks said. U.S. forces will also screen, fingerprint and photograph detainees. "We'll determine which ones need to be brought out and need to be handled in some form of legal process," he said.
Completing the work will take time, he warned. The mission is far from complete. The troops, however, he pointed out, seem to be in no hurry. Those watching a USO show at Kandahar Airport a few nights earlier, he said, showed "absolutely no desire to leave their mission."
Neither should anyone else, Franks stressed: "I think it's best for all of us to recognize that we will not be hurried. We will not be pressed into doing something that does not represent our national objectives. And we will take as long as it takes."
The president echoed Frank's commitment to finishing the job. Bush said the United States "will not blink in the face of danger and will not tire when it comes to completing the missions that we said we would do. The world will learn that when the United States is harmed, we will follow through."
Ask the president when the job will be done, and he'll tell you, "When Tommy (Franks) says, 'Mission complete, Mr. President.'