91/11/2001: The Day That Changed America
Are We Still at War?
War on Terror Continues in Afghanistan
By Charlie Keenan

Spc. Marshall Emerson, 55th Signal CO follows soldiers from a Canadian light infantry down an escarpment in Afghanistan. The well-camouflaged soldiers were searching for Taliban fighters in the mountains north of Qualat, Afghanistan, this summer. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Hyatt)

Although American-led forces toppled the Taliban in Afghanistan, the war is far from over. The nature of the war has changed, however.

In the first phase, bombing runs and heavy use of Afghanistan's Northern Alliance fighters helped oust the Taliban regime last year. Terrorist networks can no longer use Afghanistan as a safe haven.

"The Taliban have been driven from power," says Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "Al Qaeda is on the run, and Afghanistan is no longer a base for terrorist operations or a breeding ground for radical Islamic militancy."

Yet making Afghanistan a stable place is proving to be a little trickier. Warlords have reassumed their power positions in provinces, slowing government efforts in Kabul to rebuild the war-torn country. Mistakes by American forces have led to civilian casualties. Two government officials have been assassinated, and President Hamid Karzai is on the hit list of militants still on the loose.

That has some lawmakers calling for more troops just to keep the peace in Afghanistan. "This points out how fragile this situation is," said U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

And there's still al Qaeda to deal with. Pockets of al Qaeda have fought in skirmishes with allied forces. Evidence suggests al Qaeda fighters are using rural Pakistan as a place to regroup. It's a safe area for them because it's outside the control of Pakistan's army. Despite Pakistan's support of the U.S., it will not let American troops cross the border — a frustration for the U.S. military.

Rumsfeld — dissatisfied with the slowdown in military progress — is said to have ordered a review of tactics. He has called for more use of Special Operations Forces to go after the terrorists in Afghanistan and beyond — even without the permission of other governments.

Special Operations Forces are separate from the normal military chains of command, and include the U.S. Army Special Forces, Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and Delta Forces. These are elite units, with the best-trained soldiers. Green Berets, for example, helped coordinate air strikes from the ground and assisted Northern Alliance troops.

Rumsfeld is calling for better information on the enemy's positions and movements. So far, military officers have failed to locate Osama bin Laden, head of al Qaeda. "We have not made many strides since I've been here in improving the intelligence," Rumsfeld says.

Still, things have come a long way since last year, when the oppressive Taliban was in power. "The beatings by religious police and executions in soccer stadiums have stopped," Rumsfeld says. "International workers are no longer held hostage. Aid is once again flowing, and the Afghan people have been liberated."