- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 8, 2001

The envoy charged with setting up a U.S. diplomatic mission in post-Taliban Afghanistan said yesterday he plans to go to the capital, Kabul, next week but insisted the United States has "no intention of running" the war-ravaged country.
Another senior State Department official said he was confident Afghanistan's new transitional government would overcome friction with groups unhappy with the outcome of the negotiations that formed the interim administration and would work productively despite boycott threats.
James Dobbins, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's special representative for Afghanistan, said Washington has no political conditions for reopening its embassy in Kabul, which will function as a liaison office until a permanent Afghan government is in place.
"We've made a decision to open a diplomatic office in Kabul as soon as we can," Mr. Dobbins told reporters at the State Department. He said that the U.S. mission is expected to begin operation before Afghanistan's interim administration takes office on Dec. 22.
Mr. Dobbins, who helped the United Nations broker a deal among four Afghan factions at talks in Germany this week, said Washington's only requirement in order to open its Kabul office have to do with safety and security.
"An explosive ordnance disposal team has to go in and make sure that there isn't unexpended ordnance in the area," he said. "You need to secure the perimeter and you need to assure that there are a few rooms that are habitable so that the staff can work and live there."
Mr. Dobbins said the United States would help rebuild Afghanistan but it would not interfere in the country's internal affairs.
"We can't and we have no intention of running Afghanistan," he said. "What we are going to do is try to foster an international environment which is conducive to the Afghans running Afghanistan peacefully and in a broadly based fashion."
In spite of some bitter feelings among Afghan groups not pleased with the new administration, Mr. Dobbins said he expects no major problems in the interim government's work.
"All the parties that form the coalition don't end up equally happy, and some of them complain afterwards," he said. "But nobody has walked away from this agreement, and, at this stage, we hope that they won't. And there's no doubt that various elements within that coalition feel that they should have had more seats and are voicing their unhappiness."
On Thursday, just one day after the agreement in Germany was reached, the military commander whose forces dominate much of northern Afghanistan vowed to boycott the new administration.
"This is a humiliation for us," Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum told Reuters news agency. "We announce our boycott of this government and will not go to Kabul until there is a proper government in place."
"I did not interpret that to mean that the Uzbeks, whom he nominated for the government, do not intend to participate," Mr. Dobbins said. "I anticipate that they will participate. He did not seek a position in the government and, therefore, I'm not sure what the content of that statement is."
The United States hopes that countries such as Uzbekistan, Turkey, Iran and Russia, which "have traditionally maintained a relationship" with Gen. Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek, will "make clear how important it is that this agreement be implemented," the envoy said.
Richard Haass, the State Department's director of policy planning and coordinator of Afghanistan policy, challenges the premise that the country "is going to break down into warlordism or dysfunctionality."
"I think there's a very good chance that it won't," he said at the same State Department briefing where Mr. Dobbins spoke.
But on Thursday, Mr. Haass told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that lawlessness and even resistance by Taliban sympathizers could last for months or years.
"Some disagreement and even infighting among the Afghans is to be expected," he said. "Not everyone is likely to endorse the emerging order."

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