American Forces Press Service

Central Command Chief Pleased With Afghan Progress

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4, 2002 - "Al Qaeda is on the run," said Army Gen. Tommy Franks, the chief of U.S. Central Command Jan. 4.

Franks, who held a "telenews conference" between the Pentagon and Tampa, Fla., said he has been generally pleased with the way operations in Afghanistan have gone to date.

Franks, who just returned to Tampa after visiting the region, said service members' morale is "sky high." He said American military is operating in what continues to be a dangerous environment.

This danger was highlighted by the death of a Green Beret during a firefight in the Gardez-Khost region in eastern Afghanistan. He was the first American service member killed by hostile fire since the operation began Oct. 7.

Franks reminded reporters that the mission of U.S. forces in the country is to destroy terrorist networks inside Afghanistan. "Progress has been made," he said. "The Taliban . no longer controls Afghanistan, Al Qaeda cells inside Afghanistan have in some cases been destroyed, in other cases been disrupted, and, in fact, Al Qaeda is on the run."

He pointed to the installation of the interim Afghan government as another sign of success. He also noted the effectiveness of the humanitarian relief efforts since the Taliban is no longer impeding the United Nations and non- governmental relief organization. The return of refugees and "internally displaced persons" are hopeful signs for the country, he added.

"I am indeed pleased with the progress that has been made over the past 90 days," Franks said. "But I would also say that much very dangerous work remains to be done."

The United States and coalition allies must root out pockets of Al Qaeda and Taliban forces. "We're going to continue to hunt down the leadership of these terror networks and cells, both within Afghanistan and outside Afghanistan," he said.

Franks said Central Command would continue to exploit the terrorist training camps and compounds. He said U.S. personnel have searched 40 of 48 "known" of these camps.

"We will continue to screen, process, interrogate several thousand detainees," he said. "This will take time, for sure. But then again, we have a patient nation, we have a patient president and I am a patient CINC."

Franks said that as the operation progresses he may have to change the troop mix and skill set as needed. More military intelligence people, for example, may be needed to interrogate detainees, or more forensic people may be needed to identify the Al Qaeda and Taliban dead. At other times, more special operations forces will be needed.

"You should not take this as an indication that we're going to be dramatically adding to the number of Americans inside Afghanistan," he said. "Each step of this campaign we have tried to match the requirement of the mission against the specific force we have on the ground."

Franks addressed rotation policies for U.S. units involved in the campaign.

"A combatant command essentially has its own Army element, it's own Air Force elements, Navy, special operations and so forth," Franks said. "Each one of those services establishes a rotation policy for their own people based on discussions with us about the way we see the mission, the way we see the criticality of certain people in certain places.

"I think you will see a rotation," he continued. "Some services may rotate at the 90-day point and you may see others rotate at the six-month point. That's the way we'll handle rotation."