- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) A U.S. general arrived in Afghanistan yesterday on a mission to build a national army in a country where most fighters are loyal only to their tribal leaders or local warlords.
Maj. Gen. Charles C. Campbell, chief of staff of the U.S. Central Command, is meeting with the head of the Afghan army, Asif Delawar, and the Afghan military's top intelligence, training and logistics officers as part a mission to create a new training program for the Afghan army.
Gen. Campbell's meetings are "to get a sense of what is the Afghan vision of their own army" and to "help build a multiethnic … credible Afghan force," the military representative at the U.S. Embassy said on the condition of anonymity.
Afghanistan's central government has no standing army. While Afghan fighters have decades of experience in guerrilla warfare, the forces are divided between local warlords and tribal commanders.
Experts say that building a national army out of fighters whose primarily loyalty has long been to their regional commanders could take years.
Afghan officials estimate that 700,000 Afghans are armed. Afghan Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim has said that he wants a standing army of no more than 200,000 men.
Gen. Campbell will be in the country for a week and is expected to submit a report to the Defense Department outlining plans to train an integrated Afghan force.
U.S. soldiers are expected to arrive in the country in about a month to begin training an Afghan force of 600 men, the U.S. official said. The officers of that battalion would be expected to go on to train future army units.
"Within a month we will at least if not begin training have the core training group on the ground here," the U.S. official said.
It is not clear whether all the training officers would be Americans or if some would be from other coalition countries. Gen. Campbell will be making his assessment based on the premise that all of the trainers will be from the United States, the U.S. official said.
On Sunday, peacekeepers in Kabul began registering Afghan soldiers for a military training course that the British-led international force will conduct, Jonathan Turner, a press officer for the peacekeepers said.
Six hundred Afghan soldiers are expected to begin training there in about a week, Mr. Turner said.


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