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McKiernan Outlines Challenges to Military Mission in Afghanistan

U.S. and NATO commander Gen. David McKiernan speaks to Margaret Warner in Afghanistan about the status of military operations in the country and new efforts to shore up the region's security.

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    Now, an interview with U.S. Army Gen. David McKiernan, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan. Margaret Warner talked with him Sunday at his headquarters.


    General McKiernan, thanks for having us. Do you think the war is winnable in military terms?

    GEN. DAVID MCKIERNAN, U.S. Commander in Afghanistan: Well, the war is winnable. Let's not put it in military terms, because it's going to take security, it's going to take governance, and it's going to take socioeconomic progress, all three of those in a comprehensive way. But this campaign is absolutely winnable and will be won.


    Are you seeing a greater presence or activity by al-Qaida? The head of the Defense Intelligence Agency last week said so in Congress. I'm just wondering, if you see it, where do you see it here?


    I'm not seeing a greater presence of al-Qaida in Afghanistan, but we do know that al-Qaida provides facilitators, provides trainers, provides resources that assist different insurgent groups inside of Afghanistan.


    And is that to a greater degree than recently?


    I don't think — I don't see any increase in it, but it is persistent.


    The Taliban seems to have this sort of — you called it an extremist syndicate, I think. Such control in certain areas that, for instance, you can't — a foreigner can't go on the Kandahar Road safely anymore. We were — as I mentioned, we were in Helmand province last week, and the State Department reconstruction team really couldn't get out of its British garrison virtually.

    Are 17,000 more troops enough to turn that sort of thing around?


    Well, let's be very clear that the 17,000 soldiers and Marines that the president recently approved are generally going to be positioned in the southern and southwestern part of Afghanistan. That's the area where I've described that we're in a stalemate, that we're not increasing security, we're not increasing freedom of movement, yet the insurgency is not increasing their control, either, but we're in a stalemate.

    We need additional security presence in the south to break that stalemate and set a foundation where governance, and reconstruction, and development can improve. Those are U.S. forces to reinforce our effort in the south.

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