US debates how to keep the peace in Afghanistan: army or more peacekeepers
Friday February 22, 1:50 PM
The Bush administration is debating whether to make broader use of international peacekeepers to stabilize Afghanistan amid a volatile competition for power by
rival warlords fuelled by neighboring states like Iran, senior US officials said.
Arms flowing into the country from Iran, tensions between warlords, al-Qaeda and Taliban holdouts, drug traffickers and criminals have created a dangerous
situation on the ground, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday.
"It is not a pretty picture," he said.
But the Pentagon and the State Department appeared to be at odds Thursday over how to deal with the problem.
Rumsfeld told reporters he preferred focusing on building an Afghan national army while a senior State Department official told AFP that the international
peacekeeping force now in Afghanistan should be deployed to various locations to shore up security.
Rumsfeld said any disagreement with the State Department over the issue "has not come to my attention."
But he acknowledged that a broad range of options were under discussion within the administration and with Afghan leaders on how to provide a more stable
security environment and that the issue was not settled.
"To the extent we can put our effort and time and money into creating something that lives there and is going to stay there rather than something that's temporary and
is going to be pulled out at some point, with the result of injecting instability back into the equation, my view is that would be preferable," he said.
"If it turns out it can't be done as rapidly or as effectively or in a way that is cost-effective, then clearly we do something else," he said.
Among the other options under discussion is to enlarge the 4,000-strong British-led International Security Assistance Force to about 25,000 and deploy it more
broadly around the country, he said.
Or the US forces in the country could be beefed up from about 4,000 to 25,000 to enforce the peace while an Afghan army is being trained and organized,
according to Rumsfeld.
Or forces from other countries could provide security in different cities, he said.
A US military team led by a two star general is currently in Kabul to assess what it would take to create a national army that would strengthen the central government
and end a long and turbulent history of rule by local warlords.
But there is no timeline on establishing such a force, and a series of recent incidents, including the murder of Afghanistan's aviation minister and a riot at a soccer
match, have underscored how unsteady the country is.
Interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai has urged that the ISAF be expanded and deployed in other cities around the country.
"I don't think any of the militaries (in the ISAF) want to get involved in supporting one side against another, but to the extent they can get down on the ground in
various places and provide some stability, we think they can and should," a senior State Department official said.
The official said opposition to that has come not from within the US government but from the militaries of countries participating in the 17-nation force, the official
said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Senior Pentagon officials, however, express concerns that an enlarged peacekeeping force would become a permanent fixture, undercutting Afghans incentive to
build a national army and police force.
The Pentagon is equally keen to keep the US military out of a "nation building" role but it faces a dilemma in Afghanistan: how does it keep it from becoming a
breeding ground for terrorists again without playing a more active security role.
US air strikes near Khost last weekend appeared to mark a shift in US policy toward using military power to intervene support Afghan government troops against
Rumsfeld denied that, however, telling reporters that air strikes were called in when US special forces and government troops came under persistent fire at a
But, he said, "To go to the narrower point of to what extent one might support or help to defend the interim government, it seems to me that that's difficult to know."
"Our hope is that the Afghan forces that exist and have prevailed over the Taliban will be the ones who will provide security during this period, and that the
international security assistance force would provide it in the Kabul area," he said.
Afghan minister says security improving despite attack on British troops
Friday February 22, 7:05 AM
Interim Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah insisted the security situation in Afghanistan was improving despite an attack on British paratroops by unidentified
gunmen in the capital.
The shooting, and the killing last week of the aviation minister, "shouldn't be perceived as part of the overall security situation in Afghanistan, which is improving day
by day," Abdullah told CNN.
"Everything has improved since the inauguration of the interim government, including the security situation," he said.
"There will be some incidents, individual incidents in the overall situation. We have over a million people who are armed in this country but that situation will change,"
he said, without giving any details or timeframe.
British paratroopers, part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) deployed in Kabul, came under attack from unidentified gunmen during a routine
patrol and returned fire.
British Captain Graham Dunlop said there were no casualties on either side in the shooting in the western part of the Afghan capital around 8:30 pm (1600 GMT)
It was the second such reported incident, although the first alleged attack early Saturday is disputed by the family of a man who died when the British troops fired.
Relatives say he was an innocent civilian trying to rush his pregnant sister-in-law to hospital to give birth when their car was fired on unprovoked.
Concerns over security have been highlighted by violence in the provinces and the killing at Kabul's airport last Thursday of the aviation and tourism minister, Abdul
Abdullah said there were no differences of opinion in the interim government that Rahman was killed by angry pilgrims, even after he contradicted an account by
leader Hamid Karzai.
"There is no difference of opinion on this issue," Abdullah said. "I don't know why it should be perceived otherwise."
Abdullah had said Wednesday that Rahman was killed by pilgrims angered by delayed flights to Mecca, backing down on Karzai's assertion his minister was
assassinated by rogue security elements.
Meanwhile US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged Thursday that US special forces killed pro-government fighters in a raid in last month but said
that US troops made no mistake in launching the attack and would not be disciplined.
Rumsfeld said at least 14 people were killed in the predawn January 24 raid on two compounds in the village of Hazar Qadam, and all were members of a security
force of a local warlord who supports Karzai.
"I don't think it is an error," Rumsfeld said. "I think it's just a fact that circumstances on the ground in Afghanistan are difficult. It's untidy. It is not a neat situation
where all the good guys are here and the bad guys are there."
Recent violence has prompted renewed calls from Afghan leaders and UN officials for the ISAF to play a greater role and be deployed beyond Kabul.
The killing of the aviation minister and crowd violence outside a football match in Kabul last week prompted Karzai to call Sunday for ISAF to play a stronger role
in enforcing security.
Concern has also risen over the plight of an estimated 20,000 mainly Pashtun Afghans fleeing persecution in northern Afghanistan, where they are a minority,
prompting the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to call for an ISAF presence in the provinces.
But the United States would prefer to see the creation of a national Afghan army rather than an expansion of the ISAF, which will peak at around 4,500 this month
and whose six-month mandate is due to expire mid-year.
Speaking to troops during a visit to Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada Wednesday, Rumsfeld said developing an Afghan army made more sense than committing extra
time and money to enlarging the ISAF.
"The question is, do you want to put your time and effort and money into the (ISAF) -- go take it from, say, 5,000 to 20,000 people? There's one school of thought
that thinks that's a desirable thing to do," he said.
"Another school of thought, which is where my brain is, is that why put all the time and money and effort in that? Why not put it into helping them develop a national
army so that they can look out for themselves over time?"
However, US-led coalition forces will remain in Afghanistan to wipe out remnants of the routed Taliban militia and their partners from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda
terror network, the head of the US military's joint chiefs of staff Richard Myers said Wednesday.
Bush fails to win more Chinese backing for "war on terrorism"
Friday February 22, 12:16 PM
US President George W. Bush failed to win assurances from China that it would help curb global terrorism by halting ballistic missile exports and encourage North
Korea to restart arms control talks.
The issue of arms controls has moved to the top of Washington's foreign policy agenda since the September 11 attacks in the United States, which underlined the
threat posed by organised terrorist groups.
Bush said at a news conference in Beijing he had asked Chinese President Jiang Zemin to use his influence to entice its old ally North Korea back to the negotiating
He also voiced concerns that China was allegedly selling weapons technology and material to Iraq and Pakistan -- charges those countries have vigorously denied.
But Jiang declined to comment on arms proliferation or whether he would convey Bush's offers of talks to Pyongyang, saying only that he hoped US-North Korea
weapons talks would resume.
China's rocky relationship with the Bush administration improved significantly when it backed Washington's military campaign against the hardline Taliban regime in
But Beijing has since joined a growing number of US allies in voicing concern about a potential widening of Bush's self-declared war on terrorism to include Iran,
Iraq and North Korea, which the US president accuses of being part of an "axis of evil."
On Thursday the EU's special representative for Afghanistan, Klaus-Peter Klaiber, said the European Union rejected US charges that Iran was working to
destabilise neighbouring Afghanistan and described Washington's allegations as "unfortunate".
US officials have indicated that Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq is the most likely first target of future military action. Asked if he could support such action, Jiang
urged patience and insisted: "It is important to solve the problems through peaceful means."
On Wednesday, Bush denied any plans to attack North Korea. But he also made clear his personal antipathy for what he called the "despotic regime" in Pyongyang.
South Korean experts said that despite his repeated offer of talks Bush's tone had left little prospect of North Korea returning to the negotiating table, with or
without encouragement from China.
In Afghanistan, concern over the country's stability continued to run high with British troops from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) again coming
under fire in Kabul.
The shooting late Wednesday was the latest bout of violence to hit Kabul and outlying provinces in recent weeks and prompted renewed calls from Afghan leaders
and UN officials for ISAF to be deployed beyond its current confines of Kabul.
A classified Central Intelligence Agency report has warned that Afghanistan could descend into chaos if measures are not taken to control ethnic tensions, The New
York Times said.
And an exiled Afghan politician also warned that his country risked plunging back into war and would disintegrate if Afghans did not rally behind the UN-sponsored
"The present administration should be assisted. The other option is fighting which I am afraid would lead to the disememberment of the country," Qareeb-ur-Rahman
Saeed, a prominent figure in the Afghan anti-Soviet 1979-1989 resistance, told AFP from Norway.
"The Russians say they have interests in Afghanistan's northern areas, the Pakistanis claim they need a strategic depth in Afghan Pashtun-inhabited southern regions
while Iranians are allegedly trying to win over Ismael Khan (in the west)," he said.
The United States said on Wednesday its forces in the south of the country would stay for as long as it took to wipe out the last pockets of the Taliban and fighters
from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, blamed for the September 11 attacks.
US military officials said the discovery of 27 surface-to-air missiles about 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of the US-led coalition's base at Kandahar earlier in the
week highlighted the continuing threat to troops trying to root out Taliban and al-Qaeda remnants.
The United Nations and Afghan leaders have said they believe some kind of international force should remain in place after April 30, the end of ISAF's mandate and
the expiry of the six-month transitional government.
French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine told the UN envoy to Kabul that Paris was ready to keep peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan beyond April 30 but
preferred in the long-term to concentrate on training an Afghan national army.
The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) urged the 4,700-strong ISAF to be extended to the northern provinces, where there have been sporadic clashes
between ethnic Tajik and Uzbek factions. Both are key elements in the interim government.
UNHCR said an estimated 20,000 mainly Pashtun Afghans were fleeing persecution in northern Afghanistan and clashes in the northeast had prevented aid workers
treating a suspected influenza outbreak that has left more than two dozen children dead.
But Saeed said he feared foreign troops could manipulate security concerns into maintaining a long-term presence in Afghanistan.
"It will be a headache as the problems of the last few days have shown and there will be resistance against it (ISAF) and there will eventually be a foreign backing to
this resistance," he predicted.
Geneva Convention needs overhaul: US war crimes envoy
Friday February 22, 12:14 PM
The Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war is outdated and should be rewritten to address the threat of global terrorism, the US
ambassador-at-large for war crimes has told a British daily.
Pierre-Richard Prosper's comments on an overhaul of the convention signed in 1949 came in the wake of worldwide criticism of Washington's handling of prisoners
captured in Afghanistan.
"The war on terror is a new type of war not envisaged when the Geneva Conventions were negotiated and signed," the envoy told The Independent in an interview
"We now have organisations that ... do not conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war."
"We should look at all international documents to see whether they are compatible with this moment in history," added Prosper, an attorney who prosecuted the first
genocide case under the 1948 Genocide Convention at the Rwanda war crimes tribunal.
Following international concern over the treatment of the prisoners captured in Afghanistan and detained at the US naval base in Cuba, the White House said earlier
this month that the Geneva Convention did apply to Taliban forces, but not to members of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.
However, it stressed that in its opinion, individuals belonging to either group should not be accorded "prisoner of war" status, and must instead be seen as "unlawful
U.S. military denies rumours that troops are in Iraq
Friday February 22, 12:11 PM
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military on Thursday denied rumours circulating on the foreign exchange, energy and metals markets that U.S. troops were in
"There are no U.S. troops in Iraq," said U.S. Navy Commander Frank Merriman, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., which has
responsibility for military operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
"Are we invading Iraq? No," he added by telephone.
There has been heightened speculation in Washington and in the region about the possibility of U.S. military action against Iraq, especially after belligerent comments
by President George W. Bush last month.
Bush referred to Iraq as a member of an "axis of evil" which also included Iran and North Korea -- countries which develop weapons of mass destruction and
support international terrorism. He said action will be needed if they threaten the United States.
Oil and gold prices firmed on the rumour, with traders speculating that U.S. military intervention in Iraq may drive up oil prices and make gold attractive as a
safe-haven investment. Gold extended its gain slightly further after the denial by the U.S. military.
U.S. planes regularly patrol no-fly zones established over north and south Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War aimed at preventing President Saddam Hussein from
attacking minority groups in his own country. When threatened by ground defenses , they have frequently attacked artillery and rocket bases
WRAP: Bush Denounces Killing Of WSJ Reporter Pearl
Friday February 22, 9:25 AM
BEIJING (AP)--U.S. President George W. Bush on Friday decried the slaying of kidnapped journalist Daniel Pearl at the hands of Islamic extremists, saying such
crimes "only deepen the resolve of the United States" to fight terrorism.
A grim-faced Bush spoke from a lectern at his hotel in Beijing on the last day of his six-day Asia tour.
"Laura and I and the American people are deeply saddened to learn about the loss of Daniel Pearl's life," Bush said. "We are really sad for his wife and his parents
and his friends and colleagues who have been clinging to hopes for weeks that he would be found alive."
Pearl's wife, Mariane, is seven months pregnant with their first child. Bush expressed special sympathy for the unborn baby, "who will now know his father only
through the memory of others."
"All Americans are sad and angry to learn of the murder," Bush said. "May God bless Daniel Pearl."
Noting the presence of other U.S. journalists, as well as diplomats and humanitarian aid workers, in other countries, Bush warned any would-be kidnappers not to
stir the United States' ire with attacks or more abductions.
"Those who would threaten Americans, those who would engage in criminal, barbaric acts need to know that these crimes only hurt their cause, and only deepen the
resolve of the United States of America to rid the world of these agents of terror," Bush said.
The State Department announced Pearl's death based on evidence received at the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher didn't
reveal details about the evidence, but two U.S. officials said the FBI was evaluating the authenticity of a videotape purportedly showing Pearl either dead or being
In Washington, Attorney General John Ashcroft expressed his condolences and pledged to track down those responsible.
"As Americans, we remain steadfast in our fight against terrorism. We will bring to justice terrorists who kill Americans," he said in a statement.
Lawmakers in Congress expressed shock and outrage over Pearl's death, and demanded that U.S. and Pakistani investigators quickly bring his killers to justice.
"Daniel Pearl was a public servant in the truest sense," said House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt. "This is a true American tragedy."
"This is an act of base criminality fueled by mindless hatred that served no cause and wounds all of humanity," said Sen. Patrick Leahy.
Pearl was based in Bombay, India, for the past year as the Wall Street Journal's bureau chief for South Asia.
In his 12-year career with the financial daily, he reported from the U.S., Europe and Asia. The 38-year-old Pearl was on assignment in Pakistan as part of the
Journal's coverage of the war on terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan.
The Wall Street Journal is owned by Dow Jones & Co. (DJ), the publisher of this and other newswires.
U.S. May Remain in Afghanistan
Friday February 22 2:37 AM ET
By MATT KELLEY, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - The United States wants to make sure Afghanistan (news - web sites)'s internal rivalries don't rekindle civil war and plunge that country
again into killing and chaos.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has long argued against a peacekeeping role for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. In view of the current fluid situation, however,
Rumsfeld refused on Thursday to rule out any American role in keeping order in Afghanistan - including the possibility of sending up to 30,000 U.S. soldiers to
``police the whole country.''
He said Afghanistan's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, has good reason to worry about instability because rival factions are jostling for power, al-Qaida terrorist and
Taliban militia fighters remain on the loose and Iran is spiriting weapons across the border to support factions opposed to Karzai.
In a Pentagon (news - web sites) news briefing, Rumsfeld discussed four possible options for preventing another civil war in Afghanistan. The Taliban took control of
the country in 1996 after a ruinous civil war. It brought a rigid interpretation of Islamic law and harbored Saudi-born fugitive Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s
al-Qiada network until being ousted late last year.
``Which way is the best way? I don't know,'' Rumsfeld said. ``Which way is the fastest way? I don't know. What I think when we finally hear back from the
assessment team, I don't know.''
Options for keeping the peace inside Afghanistan as the country rebuilds, along with their advantages, disadvantages, supporters and opponents:
-Troops from the United States or another country could essentially occupy Afghanistan to ensure peace as the country rebuilds. Rumsfeld said that could require as
many as 30,000 troops.
PRO: A disciplined and well-armed force could keep Afghanistan's internal rivalries from exploding into nation-threatening violence. Having one country provide the
stabilizing force would facilitate command and coordination of the peacekeeping efforts.
CON: Afghanistan has a centuries-long history of resisting foreign occupations, and public opinion could unite against a one-country peacekeeping force.
Neighboring countries, particularly Iran, could consider a one-country force a military threat. Having that many foreign troops in Afghanistan could provide ample
targets for remaining Taliban and al-Qaida fighters.
SUPPORTERS AND OPPONENTS: President Bush (news - web sites) and Rumsfeld have made it clear they do not want the United States to provide
Afghanistan's police force, although they have not ruled it out. No other country with the means to do so has offered to provide such a one-country force. Officials
from Karzai's interim Afghan government also oppose the idea of an occupying force.
-The United States and its coalition partners could divide Afghanistan into zones, with each country assigned an area for its troops to keep pacified.
PRO: The United States wouldn't go it alone, and each country would provide only part of the force needed to police Afghanistan. Such a plan also could mesh with
the way Afghanistan largely has been ruled in past decades, when regional warlords held sway in various parts of the country.
CON: Dividing Afghanistan into zones of influence could destroy efforts to bring the country under a central authority. Coordinating actions among several different
countries could be difficult.
SUPPORTERS AND OPPONENTS: No strong backers of the idea have stepped forward, although a similar procedure has been followed in Kosovo.
-The current international security force in Kabul could be reinforced to police the entire country.
PRO: A large peacekeeping force including members from several nations could blunt fears among Afghans that their country is being occupied. A larger force could
have the means to bring order to the entire country.
CON: Critics, including some within the United Nations (news - web sites), have questioned the effectiveness of such large, multinational peacekeeping forces.
Command and control for such a force could be a problem. Such peacekeepers also often become targets. The eventual withdrawal of the peacekeepers could
ignite even more chaos.
SUPPORTERS AND OPPONENTS: Karzai has asked repeatedly for this kind of arrangement while an Afghan security force can be trained. The United States
has been cool to the idea.
-An Afghan army or security force could be created to bring order to Afghanistan.
PRO: An Afghan force wouldn't leave, and ideally would be made up of people representing all the country's various ethnic, religious and regional groups. Having
local troops do the job would be cheaper and pose fewer logistical problems for countries supporting the project.
CON: Training and equipping such a force would take time, which would give warlords and remaining Taliban and al-Qaida forces opportunities to regroup,
strengthen and attack each other.
SUPPORTERS AND OPPONENTS: The United States strongly supports this option, and Rumsfeld has said the Pentagon plans to help train a new Afghan army.
Karzai also has said he wants to create an Afghan army as one way to unify the war-shattered country
Karzai says government 'extremely united'
Fri Feb 22, 6:02 AM ET
Louis Meixler USA TODAY
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghanistan's interim leader moved Thursday to play down apparent divisions within his government, while the CIA warned that the seeds
are present for renewed civil war.
The cohesion of the government came into question after interim leader Hamid Karzai accused senior members of his own administration of assassinating aviation
minister Abdul Rahman last week during a riot by Islamic pilgrims at the Kabul Airport. Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah disavowed Karzai's version of events
Wednesday. He said the angry mob killed Rahman.
Both Karzai and Abdullah have sought to quell speculation of a rift. The Cabinet is ''extremely united,'' Karzai told Associated Press Television News on Thursday.
But he did not back away from his initial claim of a conspiracy in Rahman's killing.
Meanwhile, a classified CIA analysis says fierce competition among Afghan warlords raises the prospect of renewed civil war, although probably not in the near
The classified report said much of the country has been fairly stable since the Taliban, the hard-line Islamic militia that controlled the country for five years, was
driven from power. But tensions between ethnic Uzbeks and Tajiks in northern Afghanistan and in areas where no leader has emerged represent a danger, said a
U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The struggle to establish order and peace in post-Taliban Afghanistan was further tested when gunmen opened fire late Wednesday on a British patrol in Kabul.
Jonathan Turner, a spokesman for the 4,500-strong, British-led peacekeeping force, said British peacekeepers ''had just stopped their vehicles when they were fired
upon.'' He said they returned fire. There were no reports of casualties, Turner said.
It was the second time in less than a week that peacekeepers said they had come under fire.
Last Saturday, members of the same British regiment opened fire on a car that witnesses said was carrying a pregnant woman. The peacekeepers said they heard
gunfire and fired in response, but Afghan witnesses said the shooting was unprovoked. A local man, reportedly the pregnant woman's brother-in-law, died in the
Success in the quest for stability depends largely on whether the interim government can rein in the ethnic, tribal and personal rivalries that have roiled this Central
Asian nation of 24 million people for more than two decades.
About 20,000 Afghans, fleeing drought, hunger and ethnic strife, have crossed the border with Pakistan in recent days, a U.N. spokesman said.
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