- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 6, 2001

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday the United States will soon re-establish a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, but he does not expect it to lead a multinational peacekeeping force, which is likely to be sent to the country after the end of the U.S.-led military campaign.
Mr. Powell also said the Bush administration has made no decision yet whether to expand the war against other states, including Iraq.
Hailing an agreement on an interim Afghan government, reached yesterday by four factions at U.N.-sponsored talks in Germany, the secretary announced that his special envoy for Afghanistan, James Dobbins, will probably go to Kabul shortly to set up a permanent U.S. representation in the Afghan capital
"It would be a liaison office," Mr. Powell told reporters on his way to Brussels after visiting Turkey. "Jim may be the one who would go in and help set that office up."
But he said it was too early to determine whether the office would have the status of a full-fledged embassy.
"The actual act of recognizing a government, I think I'd better wait for my experts and the lawyers of the State Department who have to consult all kind of oracles about such matters," he said.
Washington, which broke relations with Afghanistan after the Taliban militia took power in 1996, has been more cautious than other countries in reopening its embassy in Kabul out of concern that doing so may be interpreted as recognition of the Northern Alliance.
The embassy building was attacked and set on fire by a pro-Taliban mob on Sept. 26 as the United States prepared for military action against the Taliban for harboring Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network.
The U.S. Embassy suspended normal operations and its American staff was withdrawn in 1989 because of security concerns after Soviet troops left at the end of a decade-long occupation. Local Afghan staff, however, continued to work until 1996.
No U.S. official has visited Kabul since the Northern Alliance took the city Nov. 12, although Mr. Dobbins has held brief meetings at the Bagram airport north of the capital.
Mr. Powell, who is on an eight-day, 10-nation tour of Europe and Central Asia, arrived in Brussels for the annual ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Council, NATO's political decision-making body, which takes place today and tomorrow.
Speaking to reporters on board his plane, he said "it will be useful to have some force, an organized force" in Afghanistan "that is able to respond to whatever mission might come along."
But "I do not expect it to be an American-led operation," he said.
Mr. Powell's aides said that several countries already had offered troops to the peacekeeping force, including Britain, France, Germany, Turkey, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Jordan.
The secretary also said he "will do a little collection-plate banging over the next day or two" to get financial support for the new Afghan government during his visit to Brussels.
Earlier, in the Turkish capital Ankara, Mr. Powell said Washington hasn't decided whether the next phase of the war on terrorism should include Iraq.
"The president has made no decision with respect to what the next phase in our campaign against terrorism might be, whether it is directed against any particular country, nor has he received any recommendations yet from his advisers as to what we might do next," he said.
In Washington, Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican and former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the Bush administration should make sure that the Iraqi regime's fate is the same as that of the Taliban militia.
"The obvious next step in the war on terrorism is the elimination of Saddam Hussein's tyrannical terrorist regime," Mr. Helms said in remarks prepared for delivery at a dinner speech last night.


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