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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Afghans, Coalition Have Forces Needed to Deal With Taliban

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2007 – Taliban capabilities have gotten more robust, but so have the capabilities of the Afghan National Army and police to deal with them, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan said today.

Army Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez told ABC reporter Diane Sawyer it will take a long time to rid the country of the “scourge of terrorism.”

The Afghan National Army now has 35,000 soldiers trained and equipped. The Afghan police number about 63,000. Ultimately the Army will have 70,000 soldiers, and there will be 82,000 police in the nation of 25 million.

There are 47,000 troops from outside Afghanistan in the country, including 25,000 Americans. Rodriquez said the United States has enough troops in country.

“We've asked for some trainers for the police and everything, and they're taking a look at when and how they can get them here to support that,” he said. “But overall, yes, we have enough U.S. troops for what we need to do.”

Taliban Web sites say that a reconstituted force of 6,000 fighters and more than 1,000 suicide bombers are ready for spring attacks in Afghanistan. Rodriguez said he thinks that number should be reduced by about half.

“That's still a lot of suicide bombers, relative to what we think we're going to see,” he said. “But, it'll be an increase over last year.”

The general said killing or capturing Osama bin Laden is important symbolically, but more important is to defeat his intentions, his network and his capability to inflict harm outside a limited area.

The Taliban will not win in Afghanistan, Rodriguez said, even though the terror group will continue to attack and come after NATO, U.S. forces and Afghan government forces. “I think they see their opportunities starting to slip away,” he said.

Rodriguez is not writing the group off as a combat force. The Taliban will continue to come after forces providing stability in Afghanistan, he said. U.S. forces will have to remain in the country for a “couple of years” at least, the general said.

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