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Al Qaeda capable of more attacks: US military
Washington, Aug 24 (Agencies):
Published on 24 Aug. 2009 11:39 PM IST
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Al Qaeda remains “very capable” of attacking the United States, the senior-most US military officer said, as he tried to boost waning US support for the conflict in Afghanistan. Nearly eight years after the September 11, 2001 attacks that killed some 3,000 people, al Qaeda is “still very capable, very focused on it,” chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen said on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ on Sunday. “They also are able to both train and support and finance, and so that capability is still significant,” he said. Mullen added that the US military is “very focused on making sure that it doesn’t happen again”, referring to the potential for another such attack on US soil. Meanwhile, al Qaeda is gaining from the support of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan, making the US fight against extremism in Afghanistan all the more urgent, Mullen said. “I think it (the situation in Afghanistan) is serious and deteriorating and I’ve said that over the last couple of years, that the Taliban insurgency has gotten better, more sophisticated.” US support for the war in Afghanistan has appeared tepid at best. A survey by the Washington Post and ABC News in mid-August suggested 51 percent believe the war is not worth fighting, while 47 percent support it. “Certainly the numbers are of concern,” Mullen said, as Washington ramps up efforts to bolster the size and strength of US forces in Afghanistan. President Barack Obama, who has made the conflict a top priority in his administration and declared the war there a “necessity,” has ordered the deployment of 21,000 additional troops which would boost the total to 68,000 by the end of the year. The White House is also expecting within two weeks an evaluation by the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, who may cut the number of troops in support staff roles to free up soldiers for combat against Taliban insurgents. McChrystal, who oversees American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, is weighing the step as he carries out an assessment of the war effort amid widespread speculation he is preparing to request more US troops. The New York Times reported US military commanders in Afghanistan told President Barack Obama’s chief envoy to the region hat they did not have enough troops to do their job. The newspaper said the commanders spoke this weekend with Richard Holbrooke, who over the past two days, visited all four regional command centres in Afghanistan. All four told him that while the additional US troops have had some benefit in the south, the numbers remain below what commanders need, the report said. While the Pentagon has said the official recommendation will not include a request for troops, Washington expects such a request in the coming months. Senator Joseph Lieberman, who recently met with McChrystal in Afghanistan, confirmed that a request would be forthcoming.

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