- The Washington Times - Monday, July 3, 2006

KABUL, Afghanistan — The United States said yesterday that it was giving $2 billion worth of military weapons and vehicles to modernize Afghanistan’s army as the fledgling force contends with a resurgent Taliban resistance.

In a deadly reminder, a suicide attacker hit a checkpoint in Kandahar city in the south, killing a policeman and injuring six — three policemen and three bystanders. At least two vehicles were damaged.

More than 10,000 Afghan and coalition troops have been deployed in the south to hunt down remnants of the Taliban in a military campaign billed as the largest since the hard-line regime was ousted in 2001.

At the ceremony in Kabul, Maj. Gen. Robert Durbin said the military donation was in addition to the more than $2 billion the United States has committed for military equipment and facilities to Afghanistan.

“The equipment on display today represents an additional $2 billion that the U.S. alone will provide … to continue with the equipping and building of the proper facilities and [to] continue to enhance the Afghan national army to build toward the 70,000 force,” he said.

Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said about 200 Humvees and 2,000 assault rifles — the first part of the donation — will be arriving by year’s end. The $2 billion also covers the building of a national military command center.

A total of 2,500 Humvees and tens of thousands of M-16 assault rifles will be coming. About 20,000 sets of bulletproof helmets and flak jackets also will be given.

“Without the support of the international community, we cannot modernize the army,” Mr. Wardak said. “NATO and the U.S. have promised to help us, and we are very happy. Thanks to the United States for the rebuilding of the Afghan national army.”

There are 38,000 men in Afghanistan’s army, according to the Defense Ministry.

The U.S.-led coalition has been heavily involved in training the Afghans, and the end result will be an army “that will be able to stand on its own two feet,” Gen. Durbin said.

Afghan and coalition forces have been dealing with a surge in violence in recent weeks, particularly across southern Afghanistan, where the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force is preparing to take over security from the U.S.-led coalition.

Since May, more than 600 Afghans, mostly militants, have been reported killed in Afghanistan, according to an Associated Press tally based on coalition and Afghan figures.

In western Afghanistan, an explosion killed a teacher and wounded seven female students in an English class at Herat University yesterday. Taliban extremists oppose women receiving education and have bombed many schools and universities that they attend.

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