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Al-Qaeda-Taliban alliance stronger than ever, says US army chief

August 26, 2009 21:58 IST

In a pessimistic assessment of the Afghan war, a top US military official said on Wednesday that after years of neglect, America is basically "starting over" its battle against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, whose alliance is now stronger than ever.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, said Taliban's alliance with Osama bin Laden and other leaders of the al-Qaeda terrorist network, who he said are hiding in neighbouring Pakistan's lawless border region, is stronger than ever.

Conceding that the public support to the Afghan war is waning, Mullen told The Boston Globe in an interview that the US forces do not have much time now and that its operations need 12 to 18 months to turn "this thing around". "It is doable, but it is going to take some time," Mullen said, urging Americans to be patient.

Over the past few years, he said, the Taliban has emerged far more potent than they were a few years ago. "And it is much broader than it was back then, and much deeper." "The Taliban is much closer to al-Qaeda than it used to be," Mullen said. "They are much more affiliated with each other than they were a few years ago. Call it a federation." "This is the eighth year, but there is a newness here," Mullen said. "There is a starting again, or starting over. Iraq has been the focus, it hasn't been Afghanistan."

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