- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 29, 2002

The United States will help Afghanistan build a military and train soldiers rather than devote U.S. forces there as part of a multinational peacekeeping force, President Bush said yesterday.
In a Rose Garden event with interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, the president also announced a $50 million line of credit to the war-ravaged country to fund U.S. private-sector projects. In addition, the United States released $223 million in frozen assets to the Afghanistan Interim Authority.
"I have just made in my remarks here a significant change of policy, and that is that we're going to help Afghanistan develop her own military," Mr. Bush said. "Better yet than peacekeepers, which will be there for a while with our help, let's have Afghanistan have her own military."
Mr. Karzai, who is leading Afghanistan until a new government is selected in June, said his country is committed to routing Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terror forces.
"We will not allow terrorism to return. Therefore, this joint struggle against terrorism should go to the absolute end of it. We must finish them. We must bring them out of their caves and their hide-outs. And we promise we'll do that," Mr. Karzai said.
As for the whereabouts of bin Laden, he said: "We are looking for him. He is a fugitive. If we find him, we'll catch him. … He's ruined our country."
Before his visit to the United States the first by an Afghan leader in 39 years Mr. Karzai had expressed hope that U.S. forces would remain in his county as part of any peacekeeping force.
But Mr. Bush has ruled out such a direct role. Yesterday, he said the United States would support a multinational security force and would stand ready to help if Afghan troops "get in trouble."
"We will help the new Afghan government provide the security that is the foundation for peace," Mr. Bush said. "Today, peacekeepers from around the world are helping provide security on the streets of Kabul. The United States will continue to work closely with these forces and provide support for their mission."
The president said Gen. Tommy Franks, head of U.S. forces in the region, "fully understands this and is fully committed to this idea."
The United States also will support programs to train Afghan police officers, he said.
"I reaffirm to you today that the United States will continue to be a friend to the Afghan people in all the challenges that lie ahead," Mr. Bush said.
In addition to money to establish a military, the United States will spend nearly $300 million already approved by Congress to "reconstruct" Afghanistan, which has been torn by war for more than 20 years. Part of the package is $122 million in food assistance, which includes $45 million to feed students, teachers and workers.
The White House also said Washington would provide $84 million for disaster assistance to rebuild agriculture, improve health care and stem the opium drug trade.
The package also includes $52.6 million for refugee assistance, $17 million for projects in the political and security sectors and $3 million for job and technical-assistance programs.
Afghanistan's reconstruction efforts also will receive aid from the World Bank, along with foreign governments and international donors who at a Tokyo summit last week pledged $4.5 billion over the next five years.
Earlier yesterday, Mr. Karzai watched as his nation's black, red and green flag was raised for the first time in five years above the Afghan Embassy in Washington, which was undergoing renovations. The interim government adopted the design of the flag on Saturday; the one raised at the embassy was stitched together during the weekend by two Afghan women living in Virginia.
"It's a thrilling moment for us to have Afghanistan recognized again as a nation-state, as a government," Mr. Karzai said. "This flag and the ceremony today is raised not without costs; without the costs of having struggled for many years, without the costs of having lost so many lives in order to have a free, sovereign and good Afghanistan.
"Let's hope that this flag will be there forever, and that the partnership between the American and Afghan people will be forever," he said.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage saw a message in the unseasonably warm winter day.
"The warmth of the day is a harbinger of the warmth of the relationships which are going to develop between the United States and Afghanistan," he said.
In his Rose Garden remarks, Mr. Karzai thanked "the American people for the great help that we were given to liberate our country once again, this time from terrorism from the Taliban.
"The Afghan people recognize this help. They know that without this help we would have still probably been under that rule," said Mr. Karzai, clad in a bright green cape and goatskin cap.
The interim ruler said his country desperately needed U.S. help to rebuild but vowed that Afghanistan "will stand eventually on its own feet."
"We'll be self-reliant." he said. "We'll do good in business. We'll be a strong country."
Mr. Karzai also said his people understood the agony of the September 11 terror attacks and therefore knew that the war against the Taliban must continue.
"We know that pain. We understand it. Our families know that pain," he said.
Mr. Karzai is scheduled to be a guest of honor when Mr. Bush delivers his State of the Union address tonight. The Afghan leader also is scheduled to visit the ruins of the World Trade Center in New York and address the U.N. Security Council before returning home.

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