US general: We're working 24/7 to catch bin Laden

Ex-US commander in Afghanistan tells Jerusalem Post that Taliban forces are growing stronger.

US afghanistan 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
US afghanistan 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The United States will not relent in its pursuit of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden until he is captured, Lt.-Gen. (ret.) David Barno, the former commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. "We are operating 24 hours a day and seven days a week until he is captured," said Barno, who today directs the Near East South Asia Center, a US Defense Department body established in 2000 to foster positive relations and understanding in the region. "As long as we are in Afghanistan, this is still a strong focus," he said. Barno, a guest speaker at the Institute for National Security Studies security challenges conference in Tel Aviv, headed the Combined Forces Command from 2003 to 2005. He said that in the past six months Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan had increased their attacks against coalition forces. There were a dozen suicide attacks in 2005, and last year there were 160, he said. "There are problems growing in Afghanistan with roadside bombings and suicide attacks," Barno said, adding that in contrast, the situation in Iraq was dramatically improving. He said Taliban forces in Afghanistan were becoming "desperate" and were turning to suicide attacks as a tactic that did not require "face-to-face" combat to instill "uncertainty and fear." "Taliban today is stronger and appears to be of a different nature than the Taliban from before," he said, adding that Pakistan was no longer fighting against the group, whose forces were mostly located in the remote mountainous areas between the two countries. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland of the Institute for National Security Studies said there were similarities between the Taliban and the terrorist groups that the IDF fights. "There is a lot of similarity in the nature of the conflicts," said Eiland, who up until 2006 was Israel's national security adviser. "They learn from one another." Eiland warned that al-Qaida and global jihad forces were working to penetrate Israel and were exploiting "vacuum areas" such as Lebanon and Jordan. He said that at the moment, there did not appear to be an al-Qaida presence in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. Eiland said the secret to succeeding in battle zones like Afghanistan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was having high-quality human intelligence, on the ground and quickly accessible. He said human intelligence enabled militaries to quickly locate and capture insurgents and wanted terrorists.