- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 26, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
U.S. troops will begin training Afghan army soldiers to bolster security and guard borders in that still-unstable nation, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday.
The training will begin in four to six weeks and be led by 125 to 150 members of the U.S. Army's Special Forces teams.
In a statement, the Pentagon said the training will start with 10-week courses emphasizing "basic soldier skills." More complex training involving a range of units from small groups to battalions comprising several hundred soldiers will follow.
"Training the Afghan army will serve as a positive step to help ensure that there is a better chance for peace and security in Afghanistan, and that the country is not used as … a terrorist haven in the future," said Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who accompanied Mr. Rumsfeld at his Pentagon briefing.
No additional forces will be sent. The training will be conducted by troops already in the country when not engaged in other tasks, Mr. Rumsfeld said.
The United States will ask other governments to contribute money to help pay for the training and to pay individual soldiers. The Bush administration also might consider asking Congress for money to help with the training, the defense secretary said.
So far, British and German members of the international security force in Afghanistan have begun providing basic training for 600 or so Afghans in Kabul.
But thousands of other potential recruits have been waiting, idle and untrained, in tent camps or barracks blocks. Most are paid only with a daily plate of onion and potato, although some officers have had meager wages paid by local businessmen. All are without uniforms.
"What we've decided to do is to try to get it started, and be helpful with one piece," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
The hope is that Afghan officers and noncommissioned officers who have taken part in the U.S. training then would train their own classes of recruits, perhaps by year's end, Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Fighting among regional Afghan warlords has become a problem in some areas since the Taliban were removed from power, and Mr. Rumsfeld has said he believes the key to future stability in the country is the creation of an Afghan army.
The United States has declined to put any military troops into the international security force now in Afghanistan, whose leadership soon will be taken over by Turkey.
The focus of most U.S. troops in the country will continue to be "to track down and try to find … the senior al Qaeda and Taliban in the country," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Asked about the discovery of what appeared to be an al Qaeda biological weapons lab under construction near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, Gen. Myers said that suspicious items have been found at several sites.
The general said in five or six cases, test swabs were positive for anthrax and perhaps the poison ricin, which is derived from castor beans. But the general said the traces were in "such minute amounts" that they did not amount to "conclusive proof" of chemical or biological weapons.
The general said equipment was found, such as driers that could be used to make the deadly anthrax spores airborne, but "not all the equipment you would need was present."
Mr. Rumsfeld, asked about a plan for U.S. forces to cross the Afghan-Pakistani border in search of fleeing al Qaeda and Taliban troops, said none existed.
He praised Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for placing troops along the border, calling it a "very rugged difficult" region.


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