- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 18, 2001

NEW YORK U.S. troops in a proposed multinational security force for Afghanistan likely will be limited to logistical support, U.S. officials say.
With only four days until a new Afghan government is seated in Kabul, diplomats and military leaders were locked in negotiations yesterday on the scope and mandate of the force to patrol the Afghan capital.
British officials have offered "in principle" to lead the force with up to 1,500 of their own troops but say they want to be sure they can count on the U.S. military for logistical and military assistance.
Such a commitment appeared to be forthcoming from Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, who said Sunday during a visit to Bagram air base north of Kabul that the United States could play a limited role.
"The United States is not going to be participating in the force at first," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "We have agreed to assist with intelligence and [air] lift, and in the event they have problems, we obviously will be available to go in with some sort of quick reaction capability."
He said he expected the total international force to consist of no more than 5,000 troops.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also said Sunday that some U.S. service members would stay in Afghanistan after the battle against the Taliban and the al Qaeda terror network is ended.
"I expect that most U.S. troops will leave at that time, although some troops may remain involved in enabling the international security force to get in and help sustain them," Mr. Powell said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"I don't expect that you will see U.S. combat troops there for any length of time as part of that international security force," he said. "But to get that kind of a force into a remote place like Afghanistan, the U.S. has certain capabilities that I'm sure will be called upon."
So far, France, Canada, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Australia, New Zealand, Jordan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Malaysia and Argentina have said they would consider contributing troops to a multinational force for Afghanistan. However, diplomats said it is increasingly likely that only a few nations would participate initially.
The U.N. Security Council could formally approve of the mission late today or tomorrow, after which British troops could be quickly deployed.
British officials said the first wave of troops could be on the ground this weekend, when the new Afghan administration holds its first meeting in Kabul.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair told Parliament yesterday that Britain wants to turn over leadership of the mission to another country after a few months.
He said a formal announcement of Britain's offer to lead the force is contingent upon the report of a military reconnaissance team now in Kabul to meet with key figures in the transitional authority.
Washington's special envoy to Afghanistan, James Dobbins, said yesterday in Kabul that he expected to see advance troops of a foreign security force in Kabul by Saturday.
"I anticipate that at least lead elements of it will be here," he said at a news conference, shortly after raising the American flag over the once-abandoned U.S. Embassy, which reopened yesterday.
Japan, the United States and other countries have promised to provide logistical support, technical expertise or cash to assist the mission.
This much is known: The force will not be a traditional "blue helmet" peacekeeping mission commanded and funded by the United Nations. Instead, it will be authorized by the U.N. Security Council under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which will bestow international legitimacy.
The transitional Afghan administration, which will be replaced by an elected government within two years, was selected in an exhausting weeklong conference in Bonn 10 days ago. Their agreement included a request for an international force to provide stability around the capital until an all-Afghan force can be deployed.
In New York last week, the five permanent members of the Security Council the United States, Britain, Russia, France and China wrestled with differing interpretations of that agreement.
The Russians and French want a carefully worded resolution that will authorize the multinational force for only three months at a time, about half the mandate of a usual mission. They also want a formal request for the force from the new transitional administration, spelling out the Afghan preferences.
The British and Americans want a vaguely written resolution that will give the force commanders greater latitude in a difficult environment. They say no further input from the Afghans is necessary.
Officials of the Northern Alliance, the Afghan force that drove the Taliban from Kabul last month and controls the city, say they want no more than 1,000 foreign troops and expect their mission to be clearly and narrowly defined.
The leader of the interim government, Hamid Karzai, arrived in London yesterday to meet with military officials.
He is en route to Rome, where he will pay a visit to the exiled 87-year-old Afghan king, Mohammad Zahir Shah, who advisers said could make a symbolic return to Kabul in late March.

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