- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 20, 2001

From combined dispatches
KABUL, Afghanistan The incoming government announced an agreement yesterday on the terms for an international force to police Kabul, even as the United States and its European allies bickered over command arrangements.
Hamid Karzai, who will serve as prime minister when the new administration takes up its duties on Saturday, signaled his satisfaction with the arrangement as he returned from Rome, where he had been holding talks with the former king, Mohammed Zahir Shah.
The British-led force was expected to start arriving any moment but in limited numbers, and playing a low-key role. Mohammed Fahim, designated defense minister in the new administration, said the force will not exceed 1,000; additional members would be limited to logistical support.
"If there are more, then the rest will participate only in providing technical support and assist in humanitarian aid deliveries. The contingent providing support for peace and stability will be up to 1,000 people."
A spokesman for Mr. Fahim, military leader of the Northern Alliance, said an agreement on the force had been reached with British Gen. John McColl, who will head the contingent.
Mr. Fahim told reporters that the force would be quartered at one base and would stay for six months from the day the interim government takes power on Saturday. His spokesman said the force and logistical support team would total 3,000, and the first contingent would arrive tomorrow.
Diplomatic and military sources said earlier that a vanguard of about 100 British Royal Marines from the vessel HMS Fearless was expected to arrive first.
British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon, in a formal letter yesterday, informed U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan of Britain's readiness to lead the peacekeeping force with 1,500 of its own troops.
Military advisers from the 17 countries that have offered to contribute personnel met in London yesterday to discuss the mission. The deployment still awaits U.N. approval, which diplomats say could come today.
Mr. Hoon said the main body of the force would not begin to deploy before Dec. 28.
Differences over the size and role of the force have dogged discussions between Mr. Fahim and senior military officers from Britain and other likely contributing nations.
Serious differences also emerged among key European allies yesterday on the command structure of the foreign security force for Afghanistan, but the United States said its ongoing military operation must take priority.
Britain has suggested linking its command structure with that of the U.S. troops waging war against the Taliban and the al Qaeda network. But German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping told reporters in Brussels, where he was attending a NATO meeting, that there had to be a strict separation between the two missions.
A senior German government source said Berlin might not take part unless it was satisfied with the command arrangements and rules of engagement. If Germany did not join, the Netherlands might also stay out, one source said.
Diplomats said the United States was frustrated by Germany's reluctance to put its forces under U.S. command. They said France was essentially on board but found it hard to say so publicly.
The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, said there had to be coordination to avoid friendly-fire incidents and interference in the U.S.-led offensive.
"You don't want to have anything happen that could bring either one of those forces to come under each other's fire for some reason or to be operating in areas where one doesn't know where the other is. That could be very disastrous," he told reporters in Brussels.
"The second point is not to inhibit the war on terrorism that's going on inside Afghanistan."
Germany, France, Turkey and Jordan were likely to be among the countries taking part in the force, whose role is expected to be confined to guarding government buildings and conducting low-key patrols in Kabul.
Mr. Karzai, speaking in Rome, said he would be happy with a foreign peacekeeping force of any size necessary that would be beneficial to his country.

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