- The Washington Times - Monday, August 26, 2002

From combined dispatches
The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan said yesterday that much remains to be done to achieve lasting stability in the war-ravaged country.
Gen. Tommy Franks, head of the U.S. military's Central Command, based in Tampa, Fla., met with the Turkish commander of the international peacekeeping force, Maj. Gen. Hilmi Akin Zorlu, soon after arriving yesterday in Kabul, the capital.
The two discussed the security situation in Kabul, where a multinational force of about 4,800 soldiers patrols regularly.
"We stand side by side recognizing that whether it is Operation Enduring Freedom or whether it is the International Security Assistance Force, much remains to be done in the future," Franks told reporters.
Gen. Franks said there was no "convincing proof" that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman Zawahri, are dead. "If he is still alive, it's only a matter of time," he said.
Meanwhile, an Islamic Web site was reporting yesterday that its correspondent based in Jalalabad had obtained a copy of a letter written just weeks ago by bin Laden.
The Qatar-based Web site, www.islamonline.net, said the letter handwritten in Arabic was obtained from an Afghan source and bore similarities to other notes found previously by the CIA and FBI.
The letter praised Afghanistan because it had repelled invaders in the past and "because the peaks of the mountains of this blessed land reject stubborn atheists."
"We shall soon see God the Almighty willing the fall of the countries of infidelity headed by the tyrant America, which has trampled on all human values and violated all limits, and which knows no logic apart from that of power and holy struggle (Jihad)," the letter said.
Also reported yesterday:
Afghan authorities are considering releasing hundreds of foreign prisoners, many of them suspected al Qaeda fighters, but those guarding them argue the men are still dangerous terrorists who should remain behind bars.
In the basement of the intelligence ministry building in Kabul, some 50 bearded prisoners sit barefoot, up to seven to a room, reading the Koran and praying. Most are Pakistanis; a few are from neighboring Tajikistan.
Senior members of the Saudi royal family paid "protection money" totaling at least $300 million to bin Laden and the Taliban to prevent them from attacking targets in Saudi Arabia, the London Sunday Times reported.
Documents filed in a U.S. lawsuit by lawyers representing the families of September 11 victims showed the deal was struck after two secret meetings involving members of the Saudi royal family and al Qaeda leaders, including bin Laden. The cash enabled al Qaeda to fund training camps in Afghanistan that are said to have been attended by the terrorist bombers.

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