- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 22, 2006

FBI in Kabul

The FBI has opened a permanent office in Afghanistan, where a team of special agents helps Afghan authorities hunt for Taliban insurgents determined to regain power and track down militants who attack U.S. interests.

Known as a Legal Attache Office, or Legat, it was set up at the invitation of the new Afghan government and is located at the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Kabul. The agents and staff will work directly with Afghan officials and representatives of U.S. government organizations in the Central Asian nation, our correspondent Jerry Seper reports.

FBI officials said yesterday that the bureau’s role in Afghanistan continues to be primarily counterterrorism-based, interviewing al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban extremists captured by U.S. and international security forces in Afghanistan and pursuing terrorism leads and issues developed in the country and elsewhere.

Legal Attache Brian F. McCauley, previously the FBI’s Afghanistan program manager in Washington, now leads the bureau’s initiatives and partnerships in the country.

“The government of Afghanistan, the Department of Defense and coalition forces are extremely supportive of the FBI’s presence and initiatives here,” Mr. McCauley said. “We’ve developed exceptional relationships with our Afghan and military counterparts.”

The Legat also coordinates the work of FBI agents and specialists sent to Kabul to conduct investigations with local officials into attacks on Americans and on U.S. companies in the region.

In August 2004, the Kabul offices of the U.S.-based DynCorp International were severely damaged by a car bomb, killing three Americans. FBI agents and Afghan investigators probed the terrorist incident, leading to the arrest and conviction of four persons.

In September 2004, a suicide bomber detonated six grenades in a crowded street market, killing an American and wounding another. Again, the combined efforts of the FBI and Afghan officials led to the arrest and conviction of two persons.

“We’re a long way from home, and the work is often dangerous and demanding,” Mr. McCauley said, “but I believe our efforts here are vital to the FBI’s mission of protecting America.”

‘Baseless’ charge

The U.S. Embassy in Bolivia dismissed charges by left-wing President Evo Morales that Washington is sending soldiers to the South American nation disguised as students and tourists.

“It was a baseless accusation,” the embassy said in a written statement. “We reiterate once more that we are supporting Bolivian democracy in a consistent way.”

Mr. Morales told supporters in the central Cochabamba region on Tuesday that he will raise the issue with U.S. Ambassador David Greenlee.

“I’d like him to tell me why U.S. troops disguised as students and tourists are entering Bolivia,” Mr. Morales said.

He increasingly has adopted the anti-American style of his close ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. In a speech on Sunday, Mr. Morales shouted, “Long live coca. Die Yankees.”

Before he took office in January, Mr. Morales was the leader of Bolivia’s coca farmers and fiercely opposed U.S. efforts to eradicate the crop that forms the basis of cocaine.

Visas for Honduras

U.S. Embassy officials are working with Honduras to tighten rules for the approval of Honduran passports, which were issued too frequently to foreigners trying to enter the United States illegally.

The embassy last week stopped processing visas because too many Honduran passports were held by citizens of other Latin American nations, the State Department said this week.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@

washingtontimes.com.

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