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Franks: Anti-Terror War a Long Haul, Yet Victory Is Certain

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2002 – The head of the command directing operations in Afghanistan today said it will take a long time to defeat global terrorists, but he emphasized ultimate victory is certain.

Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, chief of U.S. Central Command, appeared today in an NBC "Meet the Press" interview from his Tampa, Fla., headquarters. He told host Tim Russert he agreed with President Bush's assessment of U.S. involvement in the global war against terrorism.

"I think President Bush has laid it out exactly right: We should expect to be doing this for a long, long time into the future," Franks noted.

After 169 days of U.S., coalition and allied Afghan military operations in Afghanistan, Franks noted that the Taliban have been removed from power. He emphasized those operations would continue until "the al Qaeda network inside Afghanistan is destroyed."

Although fugitive al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden remains on the loose, some think in eastern Afghanistan or in Pakistan, Franks said he doesn't consider that a failure at this point in the war.

"The purpose of the mission when we started it was to destroy the (al Qaeda) network," he explained. "I think we're making progress in getting that done. I know for a fact that we have destroyed the Taliban as a governing activity inside Afghanistan.

"In time, the personalities will come ...," Franks added.

The recently concluded Operation Anaconda in eastern Afghanistan "was very successful," Franks said. However, U.S. military operations "are not going to be over any time soon," the general added. "We should expect that those operations are going to continue to involve serious risk to our young people who are serving on the ground over there."

Asked for his view of a post-war Afghanistan, Franks noted that a challenge to long-term stability is the historically "fractious, contentious behavior" of the country's many tribal warlords and militias. Another concern, he added, is the many countries that have interests in Afghanistan.

The United States and the international community are "going to have to remain attentive to both of those points," he added.

Russert asked Franks to comment on media speculation about possible preparations for a military campaign against Iraq. He cited a recent meeting in Europe where Franks met with other senior U.S. commanders.

"I have not had specific contact with other unified commanders to discuss a campaign inside Iraq," Franks noted. "We did talk about a variety of things, not the least of which was our own ongoing operations in Afghanistan."

Franks remarked that U.S. troops fighting the war against terrorism are receiving "absolutely incredible" support from the American public.

"The support that these young people, who are serving in Afghanistan and in the areas right around Afghanistan, get is beyond anything in my experience in more than 35 years in this line of work," he said.

Franks assured the American public that their support wouldn't be misplaced.

"At the end of the day, we will absolutely, without question, get this job done," the general said. "We will defeat terrorism on a global scale."

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