Archive for Thursday, July 31, 2003

Military chief reaffirms support for Afghanistan

July 31, 2003

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— The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday that the Iraq conflict was providing important intelligence on al-Qaida and was not sapping resources from the war against international terrorism in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

"People should be assured there has not been any lessening of our ability to go after al-Qaida because of the operations in Iraq," Air Force Gen. Richard Myers told reporters during a one-day visit to Afghanistan, his fifth stop in a tour of the Middle East and Asia.

"In fact, just the opposite, we're getting very good intelligence from operations in Iraq on the al-Qaida and it's been very helpful in understanding the network and tracking down some of the leadership."

Meyers, speaking at Bagram Air Base, headquarters of U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, downplayed the many recent attacks on coalition and government forces here, calling them dangerous but not a serious threat to national order.

"Security and stability are increasing," he said. " ... The commanders here feel like the security situation they are dealing with is at the low-intensity end of the conflict. There is not a threat of major forces of the Taliban and al-Qaida threatening our forces or the Afghan government."

Meyers vowed that coalition forces would remain in Afghanistan until "until the job is done."

"The U.S., the international community for that fact, is committed to be here as long as it takes to finish the Bonn process, to go through elections, and insure that the Afghan government can provide its people the things a government provides its people in terms of security and hope for a better economic future," he said.

"It's impossible to put a timeline on that."

One recent source of conflict in Afghanistan has been a bitter clash with neighboring Pakistan, which Meyers visited before traveling here. Afghan officials have accused Pakistan of trying to seize territory along their common border under the guise of moving troops to hunt for terrorists.

The dispute has prompted several protests in Kabul, including a violent one in which a mob ransacked the Pakistani Embassy.

A tripartite commission, including high-ranking military and diplomatic officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States, are investigating the dispute. Meyers said he was hopeful the commission would settle the issue amicably.

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