Abizaid: 2005 Can Be a Decisive Year Against ExtremismBy Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
American forces deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq the past few years have not only been protecting the United States from attack, Army Gen. John P. Abizaid said to committee members, but has also done much to help the (Middle East) region move forward in the direction of moderation.
Abizaid said he was optimistic about the situation across the Middle East, including future developments in Afghanistan and Iraq. As head of U.S. Central Command, he oversees U.S. troop operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
I think 2005 can be a decisive year, Abizaid said, in the fight against extremism in the Middle East. He pointed to recent events in Lebanon, where its citizens have called for the ouster of Syrian troops and intelligence agents from the country.
Theres also renewed momentum in efforts to make peace between Palestinians and Israelis, Abizaid noted, as well as an opportunity to establish greater stability in Afghanistan and Iraq.
This year should also provide Iraqi and Afghan forces an opportunity to take more and more of the responsibility of fighting the insurgencies within their countries, he said.
And the Pakistani and Saudi governments, Abizaid observed, can benefit from more U.S. and coalition assistance to help them confront extremists operating inside their borders.
However, the general cautioned committee members that extremist elements operating out of Iran and Syria could foment more violence across the Middle East.
The extremist enemy that we face throughout the region will not surrender, Abizaid said, noting the extremists wont move away, theyll continue their attacks.
By voting in nationwide elections held in their countries, the Afghan and Iraqi people have chosen to reject extremism and participate in a democratic process, Abizaid observed.
This battle between moderation and extremism in the region is one that the people of the region have chosen to fight, and they cant win it without our help, he concluded.
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