A Year Later, U.S. Says Afghan War Not Over
Mon Oct 7,10:08 AM ET
By Ahmad Sear


DURANI, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A year after the start of U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan, the United States said Monday the war in the country against al Qaeda and the Taliban was not over.

"There are ongoing attacks on the al Qaeda and the Taliban -- the war is certainly not over," U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Robert Finn told Reuters while inspecting a road project in the village of Durani, southwest of Kabul.

"Military operations are continuing, especially in the eastern part of the county and they will continue until we win."

U.S. troops leading a 12,000-strong coalition combing remote regions for Taliban and al Qaeda survivors of last year's intense air assault said they were sure their presence was making Afghanistan, and the world, a safer place.

"Life is hard but we realize we are doing something that is so much bigger and better than what we could do at home," said Sergeant Nicola Hall, sitting on a mountain rock at an undisclosed location in southeastern Afghanistan.

Hall, originally from England, is a 22-year-old now living in Fayetteville, North Carolina and working for the U.S. Army.

Staff Sergeant Carmen Damiani, from Cleveland, Ohio, said Afghans themselves were benefiting from the military campaign.

"People of Afghanistan just want to be free. They want to live their own lives," he said.

At Bagram Air Base, the U.S. military headquarters just north of the capital Kabul, pilots and their crew were also satisfied at what they said was a job well one.

"Over here it's kind of like Groundhog Day every day," said Staff Sergeant Michael Wilkie, a crew chief from Michigan now living in Tucson. "Sometimes, just looking back, it's good to be here doing what America does best."

A sticker on one warplane at the base read "Terrorist Hunting Permit number 91101."

Bombs being loaded onto aircraft carried slogans including "May you rest in pieces and in hell."

ONE YEAR ON

U.S. air strikes on Afghanistan began at night on October 7 last year and allowed the Northern Alliance to drive the fundamentalist Taliban regime from power within weeks.

The United States attacked Afghanistan after blaming al Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden for the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11 last year. The whereabouts of bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar are not known.

The commanding American general in Afghanistan told Reuters last week the campaign had gone far better than expected and would continue until the country was stable and no longer a viable base for terrorists.

Lieutenant General Dan McNeill said several hundred al Qaeda fighters were still active in Afghanistan but they were scattered around the country, and, while still dangerous, did not appear to be in a position to mount large-scale operations.

He said coalition forces would remain until Afghanistan had an army trained and equipped to provide national security and conditions for "a recurrence of terrorist organizations and their ability to recruit or train" were eliminated.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah told a news conference Sunday the formation of a national army could take three to five years but he could not say how long U.S. and other foreign forces would need to remain in the country.

"I think as long as we all agree that the situation is stable enough and al Qaeda is not a threat to the stability of Afghanistan or elsewhere. One cannot give a timetable."

 

 


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