- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 27, 2002

From combined dispatches
KABUL, Afghanistan Afghanistan's interim leader, who has dazzled the international community with his charm and his hats, will tell President Bush he does not want the U.S. campaign to end until the al Qaeda network is wiped out of his land.
Hamid Karzai was scheduled to leave yesterday for the United States, becoming the first Afghan leader to visit Washington since ex-king Mohammed Zahir Shah was invited in September 1963 by President John F. Kennedy.
He will take with him a message for Mr. Bush asking the U.S.-led coalition to press on with its campaign against al Qaeda, the Taliban and their fugitive leaders Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammed Omar.
"This issue may come up in the discussions," said Yosuf Nooristani, spokesman for the leader of the six-month interim government.
"We want the operation to continue as long as needed and until the danger from them and their terrorist presence is no longer felt," Mr. Nooristani told Reuters news agency.
Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah told the Associated Press that U.S. and international forces should remain in Afghanistan beyond the six-month life of the interim government and until all al Qaeda and Taliban resistance is ended.
Indeed, Mr. Abdullah said, the Afghan people and Mr. Karzai's government have made clear they want even more foreign troops an expansion of the international security force to "at least three to four major cities" beyond Kabul, where a British-led force is now operating.
Mr. Abdullah, who is in Washington to prepare for Mr. Karzai's viist, would give no estimate of how long either the U.S. military now numbering about 4,000 troops or the international force that is expected to grow to 5,000 members, might be needed.
"I think as long as [the al Qaeda fighters] are there, I think it should continue, the presence of the United States forces, as well as the coalition forces," he said.
In a first statement of its kind since the war began Oct. 7, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said this week that U.S. troops will stay in Afghanistan at least into the summer to search for al Qaeda members and to help the new government.
But any such expansion is likely to draw strong opposition, both from regional warlords and even from some members of the interim government.
Mr. Karzai, who is to meet Mr. Bush tomorrow, may also say that once the threat from bin Laden and his men is eradicated, the military operation in Afghanistan should be halted, Mr. Nooristani said.
Afghan Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim, who supports continued troop presence, discussed the issue Friday with the visiting commander of U.S. forces for the Afghan operation, Gen. Tommy Franks, a Defense Ministry source said.
He said al Qaeda followers and remnants of the Taliban militia that was toppled from power last November by U.S. bombing and opposition advances were still at large in southern and southeastern Afghanistan.
In his meeting with Mr. Bush, Mr. Karzai will ask the United States to help the interim government stand on its feet, seeking aid beyond the estimated $300 million that Washington has already offered to help rebuild Afghanistan, Mr. Nooristani said.
Meanwhile, Afghan villagers challenged U.S. accounts of a firefight on Thursday, claiming U.S. Special Forces soldiers killed the wrong people during the raid. The Pentagon said Army Special Forces raided two Taliban compounds at Hazar Qadam, about 60 miles north of Kandahar, killing about 15 persons, capturing 27 and destroying a large number of weapons. One American soldier was wounded in the ankle.
However, villagers in Uruzgan province, where the raid took place, claimed yesterday that the victims were neither Taliban nor al Qaeda fighters, but Afghans sent by a pro-government official to negotiate the surrender of weapons from Taliban renegades in the area.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide