U.S. commander seeks patience in terror war
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (CNN) -- The commander of the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan has refuted claims that the operation had become bogged down in its fourth week.
Just hours before British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave a speech attempting to rally continued support for the strikes, U.S. Gen. Tommy R. Franks sent a similar message to the world.
Fresh from a meeting with Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov, the general challenged the notion that the U.S.-led military operations had failed to move forward in their fourth week.
Denying suggestions that factions in the Pentagon were growing impatient with the military's progress, Franks stressed the United States was committed for "as long as it takes" to oust Afghanistan's ruling Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
Franks, who is commander-in-chief of the U.S. Central Command, was answering questions at a news conference in Tashkent.
"I don't believe the operation is at a stalemate," Franks said. "I believe that we are on a timeline we established, which is essentially a timeline that we exercise at our initiative."
Franks said there may be unrealistic expectations when it comes to the war on terror.
"Those who expect another Desert Storm will wonder every day what it is that this war is all about," Franks said. "This is a different war. This war will be fought on many fronts simultaneously."
Franks has been involved in an exhaustive effort to hold together America's wide-ranging international coalition against terrorism as many of the countries supporting the U.S. stand, including Pakistan, face intense domestic political pressures.
Franks met Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf Monday but details of what they discussed were not released.
U.S. officials have balked at the notion of suspending Operation Enduring Freedom during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in mid-November.
"Everything President Musharraf had to say to me is taken very seriously," Franks said, "but I will not confirm for you that President Musharraf suggested to me that I either should or should not conduct military operations during Ramadan."
Blair seeks united stance
Blair called for support for the U.S.-led air strikes on Afghanistan and the imminent deployment of 200 British commandos in the region, during a speech to the Welsh Assembly Tuesday.
The move is the latest in a fierce propaganda war between the West and Osama bin Laden, the Saudi-born dissident who has been blamed for masterminding the suicide hijack plane attacks.
Blair's emotional appeal, heavily trailed by aides beforehand, appeared aimed at tackling growing criticism of the West's three-week bombing campaign against bin Laden and Afghanistan's ruling Taliban regime after a series of target blunders.
Blair said: "It is important we never forget why we are doing this, never forget how we felt watching the planes flying into the Trade Towers."
U.S. forces have spent more than three weeks attacking Afghanistan's ruling Taliban and the al Qaeda organization, which Washington blames for the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
In Monday's talks with Gen. Franks, President Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 military coup, agreed to let U.S. warplanes cross Pakistani airspace and to provide logistical support for the allied effort.
Pakistan's backing is vital to the U.S.-led campaign, but Musharraf's decision to support the anti-terrorist operation has put him under increasing domestic pressure.
Pakistan backed the Taliban until siding with the U.S. effort after the September 11 attacks. A small percentage of Pakistani Muslims and some Afghan refugees living in Pakistan have mounted sometimes violent protests against Musharraf's decision to support the campaign.
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