American Forces Press Service

Franks: Al Qaeda's Safe Harbor Is Gone

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2002 -- Afghanistan is no longer a safe harbor for Al Qaeda terrorists, Army Gen. Tommy Franks told members of the Senate Armed Service Committee today.

"The harbor is gone," said the commander of Operation Enduring Freedom. There is no more Taliban government inside Afghanistan and that makes it difficult for the Al Qaeda terrorist network to operate, he said.

Many of the terrorists have been captured or killed and the hunt continues for those who remain, Franks told committee members. Al Qaeda's command-and-control architecture has been disrupted. Coordinated planning cells linked with state-of-the-art communications are no longer operating from within Afghanistan.

In short, he concluded, "The network does not operate as a network from inside Afghanistan."

Franks said he is proud of the commitment, competence, sacrifices and success of the 14,000 coalition forces from 17 nations in the theater.

"On the 7th of October, Al Qaeda and the Taliban controlled more than 80 percent of the country of Afghanistan, and terrorists were in fact harbored and sheltered in that country," the commander said. "On the 22nd of December, 76 days later, a new interim government was established in Kabul, and all of us are familiar with Chairman Hamid Karzai, who gives Afghanistan a chance."

The coalition includes more than 50 nations, of which 27 have national liaison elements at U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla., he said, adding that the team remains cohesive and continues to grow.

"Our pride in these people is boundless, and our thanks is the same," the commander said. "They're the reason that this campaign will succeed."

Operations continue to eliminate pockets of resistance, to exploit intelligence and to search for evidence of weapons of mass destruction, Franks said.

"We have to go there with military forces to investigate these places, to gain intelligence information, to gain insight into the construct of the Al Qaeda network," Franks said. U.S. officials have already taken a great amount of information from sensitive sites and potential weapons of mass destruction sites, but they haven't been through all of it in detail yet, he said.

Franks said he would consider the military mission complete when two criteria have been met.

"(I) will not tell my secretary or our president we have reached the end of the military piece until we have been through all of the (sites), until we've satisfied ourselves," he said. "We will not reach a military operational end state in Afghanistan as long as there is a credible threat from puddles or pockets of Al Qaeda or residual hard-core Taliban."

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