U.S. troops needed in Afghanistan for another year

Thursday, June 20, 2002

BAGRAM, Afghanistan -- U.S. troops may need to remain in Afghanistan at least another year to finish their mission of destroying the al-Qaida terror network and the Taliban militia, a U.S. military spokesman said Wednesday.

Lt. Gen. Dan K. McNeill, who took command of the Afghan campaign June 1, believes hundreds of al-Qaida and Taliban fighters -- perhaps up to 1,000 -- continue to operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan, spokesman Col. Roger King said.

Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has told McNeill that the mission to eliminate those remaining al-Qaida and Taliban fighters "could last for a year to 18 months" from the start of June, King said, "and (McNeill) agreed with that."

"That's not set in stone. If we make an assessment sooner that the mission has been completed, then we'll talk about withdrawing," King said.

About 7,000 Americans are currently deployed in the Afghan campaign, leading a coalition force with around 5,000 troops from other nations. Britain's contingent is expected to withdraw in late June or early July.

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