- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2003

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) Germany and the Netherlands took charge of the 22-nation peacekeeping force in the Afghan capital yesterday, with its new commander vowing to maintain security just hours before a rocket slammed into the city's eastern edge.
The rocket landed a few hundred yards from a German peacekeeping base in Kabul, police Chief Basir Salangi said. It wasn't immediately clear what the target was or who fired the rocket. No one was injured.
Rocket attacks on the war-ruined Afghan capital are not uncommon, highlighting the fragility of the relative calm that the International Security Assistance Force has helped bring to the city.
The peacekeepers' new commander, German Lt. Gen. Norbert van Heyst, said the force will continue to work for security.
"Though the name and face of the commander of ISAF may change, ISAF's purpose and commitment will not," Gen. van Heyst said.
The peacekeeping force, which now numbers about 4,000 soldiers, was first deployed on the streets of Kabul in December 2001. Britain commanded the force until June, when Turkey took over.
With a line of peacekeepers holding flags from contributing countries behind him, outgoing Turkish commander Maj. Gen. Hilmi Akin Zorlu shook hands with Gen. van Heyst during the ceremony at a secondary school packed with troops and dignitaries including President Hamid Karzai, who thanked the peacekeepers for their "major contribution" to the country.
German Defense Minister Peter Struck, flanked by counterparts Henk Kamp of the Netherlands, Vecdi Gonul of Turkey and Mohammed Fahim of Afghanistan, said NATO could one day expand its role in Afghanistan and take full control of the multinational force.
"For the first time, NATO capabilities are being employed in Afghanistan perhaps an initial step to an extended NATO responsibility for this country," Mr. Struck said. Gen. van Heyst said the NATO help included planning, communications and intelligence.
Mr. Struck has proposed that NATO take command in Afghanistan after the joint German-Dutch administration ends in six months, though he has said Spain or Canada could inherit the job if NATO doesn't.

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