- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 27, 2001

KABUL, Afghanistan The new prime minister said yesterday that ordinary Afghans are happy to have peacekeepers here, despite a long tradition of resisting foreign fighters. He also said U.S. troops were still needed to pursue remaining terrorists in Afghanistan.
Hamid Karzai said in an interview that the terrorists who had been sheltered under Afghanistan's Taliban regime had been mostly eliminated.
"Some may be still here, but I don't think they are in large numbers. I think that terrorism is largely defeated in Afghanistan," said Mr. Karzai, seated in a leather armchair in the presidential palace. "There are remnants in the form of individuals or small groups."
As Mr. Karzai spoke, men in turbans and their traditional robes waited outside to see him. Intelligence officials in plainclothes rummaged through bags, checked camera batteries and ran a metal detector over everyone going in.
The new prime minister is well aware that people are analyzing his every move. Mr. Karzai a member of the country's largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns wore a traditional brown Uzbek robe, a possible gesture of unity with other ethnic groups.
Among those missing is Osama bin Laden, who Mr. Karzai said he believes is still in the country.
"We receive reports now and then that he may be here or there," said Mr. Karzai. "If we get a detailed report about his whereabouts, we certainly will go after him and arrest him."
The president of neighboring Pakistan, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has said there was a "great possibility" bin Laden was dead, killed by American bombardments of his cave base at Tora Bora.
Mr. Karzai also promised to pursue Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban supreme leader. "If we find where he is, we will definitely arrest him," he said.
There have been reports Mullah Omar is hiding in the snowy peaks of Helmand province, northwest of Kandahar, the spiritual heart of the Taliban until it fell earlier this month.
U.S. troops should continue their hunt, as well as air strikes on suspected mountain hide-outs, Mr. Karzai said.
"They need to fight terrorism right now physically inside Afghanistan, to bring them out of their hide-outs and to deliver them to justice, to international justice and to Afghan justice," he said.
Mr. Karzai met with his Cabinet yesterday for the second time since their inauguration over the weekend. The defense and interior ministers gave briefings on the security situation. Mr. Karzai is seeking to form a national army to replace the numerous armed factions present that control parts of the country.
Without exception, Mr. Karzai said all the estimated 1,600 people he has met in seemingly endless meetings since taking office on Saturday have pressed for the deployment of international peacekeepers to maintain security for the six months he is in office.
"For a people who do not like foreign troops at all, they come and ask me to bring the peacekeeping troops," Mr. Karzai said.
About 80 British peacekeepers, the first deployed, rolled into Kabul last weekend. They came under cover of darkness and have kept their profile low. As many as 5,000 may be sent to Afghanistan, according to the U.N. resolution that approved their deployment.
Ordinary Afghans see the presence of international forces as a guarantee that the world will not forget them as it did after invading Soviet soldiers withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989 and the pro-Moscow government in Kabul was defeated in 1992.
Meanwhile, Pakistan's coast guard said it arrested 43 Afghan nationals yesterday who may be linked to bin Laden and the Taliban. Maj. Mohammed Akram said the men were taken into custody near the port city of Karachi and were being interrogated. More than 250 Taliban and al Qaeda members are being held and questioned in Pakistan.

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