BAGRAM, Afghanistan April 11 —
With world attention focused on Iraq, the head of the U.S.
Central Command, Gen. Tommy Franks, on Friday showed American troops
in Afghanistan that they haven't been forgotten.
"There isn't a wit of difference between these youngsters as they
stand here in Bagram or if they stand in Iraq," Franks told
reporters. "It's part of the global war on terrorism. It is
important to my nation and it will remain important to my
Franks visited at the U.S. military headquarters at Bagram Air
Base and spoke to hundreds of coalition soldiers engaged in hunting
down al-Qaida and Taliban fugitives who continue to target
international forces in Afghanistan.
Franks then was to travel to Kabul to meet Afghan President Hamid
Karzai and the U.S ambassador to Afghanistan. He was expected to
return to Doha, Qatar, later Friday.
Two U.S. soldiers were killed in an ambush last week and six U.S.
servicemen died in a helicopter crash last month.
Despite the challenges facing the 11,500 coalition personnel in
Afghanistan, many of 8,500 U.S. soldiers admit they feel like
they're on the sidelines watching news from Iraq on television.
It is Franks' first visit to Afghanistan this year, after leading
a successful three-week charge into Baghdad.
The troops in Afghanistan are tackling challenges similar to what
a postwar force in Iraq may face finding residual enemy forces and
delivering humanitarian aid.
Troops on search-and-destroy missions regularly fan out in the
mountains and villages while medical helicopters ferry wounded or
ailing Afghan civilians. On Wednesday, a misdirected U.S. bomb
killed 11 Afghan civilians on the eastern edges of the country, near
the border with Pakistan.
Franks denied that militants had stepped up attacks against
coalition forces in the past few weeks. He said the number of
attacks has remained the same in the past year, and noted that
attacks normally increase in the spring when it's easier for
militants to travel.
Some Afghan militant groups had vowed to step up attacks against
the coalition once war broke out in Iraq, hoping to energize
anti-U.S. sentiment and portray Washington's campaign against
Muslim-dominated Iraq as a war on Islam.
|Gen. Tommy Franks, center, head
of the U.S. Central Command, meets U.S. Army personnel at the
army base in Bagram, Afghanistan, Friday, April 11, 2003. With
world attention focused on the war in Iraq, Gen. Franks showed
American troops in Afghanistan Friday that they haven't been
forgotten. (AP Photo/Gurinder
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