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New York Daily News September 27, 2006

New honcho in Afghan war

U.S. general to lead NATO troops

By Kenneth R. Bazinet

WASHINGTON - NATO yesterday tapped a four-star U.S. general to take charge of the Afghan war amid more bloodshed by a revived Taliban.
President Bush, meanwhile, sought to end a feud between two crucial allies in the war on terror - the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Army Gen. Dan McNeil will assume joint command of U.S. and NATO forces in February, provided he is confirmed by the Senate.

"They obviously want somebody with pull over there," said military analyst John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org. "The NATO deployment has been a lot rougher than they expected."

Afghanistan is bogged down by a underfunded nation-building effort, drug traffickers run amok, a shortage of U.S. and NATO troops - and a failure to kill or capture terror mastermind Osama Bin Laden.

The allies will look to McNeil, who commanded coalition forces in Afghanistan in 2002-03, to stamp out the resurgent militia.

His assignment came as Afghan President Hamid Karzai was summoned to Washington by President Bush, who wants to mend a rift between Karzai and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Bush will referee as they try to work out their differences over dinner tonight at the White House.

Karzai is miffed that militants have been given haven in Pakistan and is concerned a new treaty between Musharraf and tribal leaders in the border area will further protect fighters out to topple the Afghan government.

Musharraf has accused Karzai of "purposely denying" the Afghan war has gone bad. "He's turning a blind eye, like an ostrich," he told CNN.

But Bush said both leaders have a common goal.

"It's in President Karzai's interest to see Bin Laden brought to justice. It is in President Musharraf's interest to see Bin Laden brought to justice. Our interests coincide," Bush told a joint White House news conference with Karzai.

"It'll be interesting for me to watch the body language of these two leaders to determine how tense things are," Bush said.

Karzai got a laugh when he joked back, "I'll be good."

Support for the war in Afghanistan is at an all-time low, according to a new CNN/Opinion Research poll.

Only half the U.S. backs that action, down from 90% right after 9/11.


Copyright 2006, Daily News, L.P.