Al-Qaida terrorists still active in former sanctuary, according to senior Afghan general's statement

Lt. Gen. Sher Karimi, chief of operations for the Afghan National Army, said in a videoteleconference with reporters at the Defense Department that elements of al-Qaida also are working with Taliban militants and aiding narcotics smugglers.

Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida followers had used Afghanistan as a sanctuary from which to plan and direct terrorist attacks. They were protected by the radical Taliban government, which was ousted when U.S. forces invaded in October 2001. Almost five years later, both the Taliban and al-Qaida remain a threat there.

Karimi said people should not underestimate the difficulty of eliminating the Taliban and al-Qaida threat in his country.

"The Taliban were running this country for five years," he said. "They were a government with a force supported directly by many nations, by many donors. They were developed. They were stationed all over the country."

A reporter asked Karimi whether he saw evidence that al-Qaida was still influencing events in Afghanistan.

"They are active by training some elements to terrorize people and also use IEDs (improvized explosive devices), remote-controlled mines on the roads and approaches and also use some of the very minor tactics like ambushes in some areas - hit-and-run type of tactics," he replied. "And, of course, they train some of the people which are for their benefit, like Taliban and also smugglers who are engaged in narcotics."

Karimi also said he saw evidence of links to bin Laden, who is generally thought to be hiding in the area along the Afghan-Pakistan border, the AP reports.

"Some of the people that have been captured during the fighting or some of the suicide attackers are Arabs; they're not Afghans, they're Arabs and some other nationalities," Karimi said. "So the Arabs are directly connected to Osama bin Laden, and many other militants or extremists from other nations are also under the control and training of al-Qaida."