- The Washington Times - Monday, June 14, 2004

The United States yesterday endorsed Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s plan to bring into his government former members of the Taliban regime, which ruled the country until 2001 and provided safe haven for Osama bin Laden.

The State Department agreed with Mr. Karzai, who met with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell during a visit to Washington, that some Taliban functionaries were “not significantly participating” in the regime’s activities “or involved in any crimes.”

“It will be up to the government to determine — through its appropriate procedures — whether they have some place in government or society at this stage,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Mr. Karzai has been courting ex-Taliban members as part of his campaign for elections in September. He repeated his offer in a CNN interview over the weekend.

“With regard to the former Taliban, we want to bring back those Taliban that are not criminals,” he said. “They are from Afghanistan. They should come back to this country and live a normal life.”

He had previously said that only “about 150” top-ranking Taliban leaders closest to the al Qaeda network would be considered unacceptable.

Mr. Boucher pointed out that “many of them need to face capture and justice.”

He said Mr. Karzai and Mr. Powell did not discuss the issue during their meeting, which took place at the Willard Hotel, where the president is staying, rather than at the State Department, as is the custom.

Instead, they focused on the upcoming Afghan election, which already has been postponed once. There are concerns that the volatile security situation in Afghanistan also might put the scheduled September date in doubt.

Mr. Karzai said he is committed to holding the vote as planned.

“They have registered 3.8 million voters, which we felt was really quite significant at this stage,” Mr. Boucher said. “Thirty-five percent of the registrants are women, which is also quite significant. So that was good news to get.”

He said Mr. Powell and Mr. Karzai reviewed Afghanistan’s reconstruction and institution-building efforts and Kabul’s attempts to extend government services to other parts of the country.

“Remarkable progress is being made across the board in Afghanistan, but [there is] still a lot of work to do,” Mr. Boucher said. “We’ve pledged to stay the course and deal with [the problems] together.”

Mr. Karzai, who also held talks with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday, is scheduled to meet with President Bush today.

Meanwhile, the European Union yesterday authorized a scaled-down election-monitoring team for Afghanistan, stopping short of a full-blown mission because of rampant violence from Taliban and al Qaeda diehards.

During a meeting in Luxembourg, EU foreign ministers endorsed plans by the EU’s executive commission to send a Democracy and Election Support Team to observe the elections.

The team of 20 to 25 members will be confined to eight Afghan cities, including the capital Kabul, which is protected by NATO-led peacekeepers, and will train the Afghan election monitors.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide