- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 6, 2002

The war in Afghanistan has badly damaged the al Qaeda terrorist network, but the group probably is still capable of mounting terrorist attacks, the war's U.S. commander said yesterday.
"This one also is in the category of a long way to go before we can relax," Gen. Tommy Franks told reporters.
Gen. Franks said there are no immediate plans for any military action in Afghanistan as large as Operation Anaconda, the 17-day assault on hundreds of suspected Taliban and al Qaeda holdouts last month. He said he has no plans to add to the U.S. force in Afghanistan, which currently numbers about 6,500 troops.
Those troops are busy searching for remaining groups of Taliban and al Qaeda, said Gen. Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command.
"We will do that work until we have satisfied ourselves that there is not the possibility of a remaining terrorist network in Afghanistan," Gen. Franks told Pentagon reporters via a video link from his headquarters in Tampa, Fla.
With Sunday marking six months since the start of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan, Gen. Franks said the operation had met many of its goals. The extremist Islamic Taliban regime is out of power, Afghans are getting humanitarian aid and al Qaeda is on the run, Gen. Franks said.
"I think, without a doubt, the operations of al Qaeda coming out of Afghanistan have been dramatically damaged, dramatically degraded," Gen. Franks said.
But he added, "I think it would be naive of me to say that al Qaeda does not continue to have capabilities to conduct terrorist operations as we speak."
Outside of Afghanistan, the U.S. military is "continuing to build our intelligence and situational awareness in Somalia," Gen. Franks said. Al Qaeda has operated in the Horn of Africa country in the past, and Somalia's lack of an effective government could help the terrorist network regroup there.
"It's too soon to tell" whether that is happening, he said.
Gen. Franks said the United States was working with other countries in the region to gather information about the situation in Somalia. There are no U.S. special-operations troops in Somalia, Gen. Franks said.

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