3 Arabs Being Sought In Pearl Slaying;4 To Be Charged Mon
Monday February 25, 3:04 AM
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP)--The hunt for the killers of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is targeting three Arab nationals - an indication, investigators say,
that the perpetrators may be linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.
Authorities offered little information Sunday about the Arabs' identity or what role they may have played. But their alleged involvement - combined with investigators'
revelation that a key suspect now in custody said he met personally with bin Laden in Afghanistan - suggested an al-Qaida link.
On Monday, prosecutors will formally charge Saeed and three co-defendants with kidnapping and murder, a senior government official said. The three others are
accused of having sent e-mails announcing Pearl's abduction, including one showing the journalist with a gun pointed to his head.
Police believe a dozen or more people were involved in Pearl's abduction and murder, and that most of them have spent time in Afghanistan as supporters of that
country's ousted Taliban regime. Their links to al-Qaida - the group believed responsible for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. - are being studied,
Four key suspects were already in police custody when U.S. and Pakistani authorities revealed the contents of a videotape Friday that showed images of the
38-year-old journalist having his throat slit.
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the British-born Islamic militant who police believe masterminded Pearl's abduction, has been in police custody since early February.
At one point he told interrogators that he met with bin Laden in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, a senior police investigator said on condition of anonymity.
Saeed also told investigators that his group wanted to teach the U.S. a lesson and Pearl's murder was just a first step, intelligence officials said.
Fearing the slaying may signal a wider plan to thwart the government's drive against terrorism, Pakistani authorities have warned U.S. and other foreign diplomatic
missions and businesses to boost their security.
Before his abduction on Jan. 23, Pearl had been investigating alleged links between Pakistani militants and Richard C. Reid, who was arrested in December for
allegedly trying to ignite explosives in his sneakers during a Paris-Miami flight.
Three Arabs Were Seen With Alleged Kidnapper Faruqi
With Saeed in jail, the prime target of a massive police dragnet is Amjad Faruqi, whom Pearl apparently knew as Imtiaz Siddiqi and who is believed to have carried
out the kidnapping. A senior police investigator said one detainee said he met Faruqi several times and each time Faruqi was accompanied by three Arabs.
The investigator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said three suspects currently in custody have been to Afghanistan and were close to the Taliban. Ousted by
the U.S.-led coalition last year, the Taliban had provided a safe haven to al-Qaida, many of whose members are Arab.
Another four Pakistani suspects currently being sought are also believed to have spent time in Afghanistan under the auspices of the Taliban.
Authorities also are searching for a suspect who goes by both Asim and Kasim. He is believed to be one of the hijackers of an Indian Airlines plane that was
diverted to Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 1999. Saeed was released from an Indian prison in a prisoner-hostage swap in that case.
Another suspect is Hashim Qadeer, whom Pearl apparently knew as Arif. Like Faruqi, he is believed to be a leader of the outlawed Pakistani Islamic militant group
Jaish-e-Mohammed, or Army of Mohammed.
Citing its graphic content, authorities say they will not make a videotape confirming Pearl's death available to the news media.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source close to the investigation who said he saw one tape said it is not possible to know when, where or how the journalist
was killed from the tape alone. That information is still not known.
Pearl's body has not been found and one investigator said Saturday that it will be difficult to find unless the remaining suspects are apprehended.
After Pearl's death was confirmed, Musharraf vowed to fight terrorists with an "iron hand."
Yet there are concerns about continuing close ties between Pakistani intelligence agencies and Islamic militant groups - forged through years of fighting shared
enemies in Afghanistan and in the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.
The Wall Street Journal is published by Dow Jones & Co. (DJ), which publishes this and other newswires.
Karzai urges Iran, US to cooperate on Afghan reconstruction
Monday February 25, 2:32 AM
Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai, given a red-carpet welcome on his first official visit to Iran, urged Tehran and Washington to work together for Afghanistan's
reconstruction, despite their differences.
"We want countries such as Iran, which helped us a lot to resist the Taliban, terrorism and foreign aggression, and the United States, which contributed to the
Taliban's defeat, to cooperate for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, even despite their differences," he said.
Karzai, speaking to reporters after talks with President Mohammed Khatami, paid tribute to Iran's "important role" in reshaping Afghanistan with the overthrow of its
hardline Taliban rulers.
"We are certain of the goodwill and fraternity of Iran in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and the sectors of national education and roads," said Karzai, who spoke in
Khatami, meanwhile, pledged Iran would "work to consolidate the interim government" in Kabul, adding that all countries should "contribute to the restoration of
security and stability" in Afghanistan.
"Our relations with other countries must not have, and will not have, any bearing on our ties with Afghanistan and our cooperation in its reconstruction," he said, in an
allusion to the United States.
Khatami also vowed that Tehran had "no intention of intervening in the internal affairs of Afghanistan," despite US charges that the Islamic republic was seeking to
destabilise its eastern neighbour.
He said the presence of the Afghan media to cover Karzai's visit was a sign of progress in itself.
"Being questioned by a journalist for Afghan television is a great development in that country because the media and especially TV were banned" under the Taliban,
"This confirms the end of an era of darkness and ignorance in Afghanistan," said the president.
Karzai, who flew in with 13 members of his government for the three-day visit, was given a reception worthy of a head of state and reviewed an honour guard at the
former imperial palace of Saad-Abad in northern Tehran.
On Monday, Karzai is to meet Iran's spiritual guide Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and parliament speaker Mehdi Karubi. He will also address the Iranian parliament,
according to the student news agency ISNA.
Karzai is leading a large political and economic delegation on his first visit to Afghanistan's neighbour since taking office after the Taliban regime was ousted in the US
"war on terror".
The reconstruction of Afghanistan, to which Iran has pledged 560 million dollars over the next five years, and the two million Afghan refugees on Iranian soil are
expected to top the agenda.
But hanging over the meetings will be charges by Washington that Iran is interfering in the affairs of the Afghan government, and accusations by US President George
W. Bush that Iran forms part of an "axis of evil."
The United States also alleges that Tehran has allowed fighters of the Al-Qaeda terror network and their allies in the Taliban regime to enter Iran.
But Iran, a bitter foe of the Taliban which sheltered Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, has strongly denied the allegations and said it would deport any Al-Qaeda
members it finds within its borders.
Iran's media joined in the welcome for Karzai but urged his administration to steer clear of US influence.
Karzai should avoid becoming "an American stooge, for behold where are his predecessors who confessed unflinching support for the Soviets?" asked Iran News.
"This should serve as a warning to Karzai who is an honourable man."
US special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, earlier told reporters in Kabul that he and Karzai had discussed Iran ahead of the trip.
He said the United States expected Iran to block the escape of Al-Qaeda and Taliban figures from Afghanistan and to stop sending agents to influence Afghan
warlords, whom he described as the biggest threat to Afghan stability.
"What we want is a normal relationship between Afghanistan and Iran. We want that relationship to be based on non-interference," he said
Iran and Afghanistan pledge new era of brotherly ties
By Parisa Hafezi Monday February 25, 1:38 AM
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran and Afghanistan pledged to open a new era of brotherly relations on Sunday brushing aside U.S. accusations that Tehran is trying to
upset the fragile peace in its eastern neighbour.
For President Mohammad Khatami the visit of Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai was a chance to demonstrate Iran's backing for Kabul's fledgling administration
and assert its role as a large neighbour in reconstructing a country torn by conflict.
"Our presence here is like going to your brother's house, because Iran is our brother country," Karzai told a news conference. "Iran is not only a neighbour, but also
Karzai led a a large delegation, including eight ministers, on a three-day visit to the Iranian capital. He is due to hold further talks with Khatami and other senior
Iranian officials and meet Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday.
Iran insists it fully backs Karzai's administration and is working for peace and stability in Afghanistan. It has dismissed U.S. charges that it is part of an "axis of evil"
and is trying to destabilise Karzai's government.
"We have close geographic, cultural, religious and historic ties with the Afghan nation," Khatami told the joint news conference. "The existence of a modern,
developed and secure Afghanistan is to our benefit."
U.S. NO BAR TO IRAN-AFGHAN TIES
Tehran has pledged $500 million to help reconstruct Afghanistan and hopes to win a large share in contracts to repair the nation's woeful infrastructure.
"Iran has an important role, it has a lot of resources and also it has goodwill to help us reconstruct Afghanistan," Karzai said. "We want all countries of the world to
help us as Iran has helped."
Iran was one of the major backers of the Northern Alliance which fought the Taliban, but many Iranian conservatives are now wary of the U.S. military presence and
political influence in what they consider to be Tehran's own backyard.
Khatami, a reformer who has tried to promote better ties with the outside world, said Iran would not let other countries affect its relations with Afghanistan.
Karzai worked closely with the United States to oust the Taliban and has called for more foreign peacekeepers to police the country. But he sought to reassure his
hosts that Iran's interests would not be hurt by his ties to the West.
"The United States helped us to get rid of the Taliban," he said. "But Afghanistan cannot be a country through which neighbouring countries can be harmed. Our
Iranian brothers should be completely sure of that."
As well as demonstrating their support for Karzai, Iranian officials hope to make progress on the issue of drug smuggling across the 900-km (560-mile) border with
With the Taliban toppled from power, analysts say Afghan farmers are again planting opium poppies.
Opium, which is processed into heroin, is smuggled from Afghanistan across Iran into Europe and rich Gulf Arab states.
The position of Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is also likely to come up for discussion.
The former anti-Soviet mujahideen leader fled to Iran when the Taliban took power in 1996. Hekmatyar has condemned Karzai's interim administration and said he
has forces inside Afghanistan ready to eject foreign troops from the country.
US warns of Afghan warlord threat as Karzai visits Iran
Monday February 25, 1:47 AM
Rival warlords pose the most serious threat to stability in Afghanistan, US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad warned as interim leader Hamid Karzai kicked off talks
with neighboring Iran.
Speaking to reporters after several days of meetings with senior leaders, Khalilzad said the existence of "multiple armies" in the countryside was the biggest challenge
to the interim administration installed on December 22.
"Clearly the major overall challenge is how to prevent a return to warlordism and conflict among major armies," Khalilzad said.
"There are a number of ideas as to what can be done, but clearly the ultimate answer is the building of a national army."
Fighting between ethnic forces and tribal strongmen in recent weeks has underlined the fragility of Karzai's interim administration as it tries to assert its control over
the countryside, where warlords still hold sway.
Khalilzad said in the long-term the only solution was for Afghans to take care of themselves.
"We do not want Afghanistan to become a kind of security welfare state, if you like, on the international community," Khalilzad said.
"We want the Afghans, and the Afghans themselves would like, to be self-reliant as soon as possible,under the guidance of Western military advisors.
to build an adequate armed forces and build a single army from the multiple armies that exist here."
The first units of a new Afghan army are due to start training here Monday The chairman of the United States' Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers, said Sunday the
US would assist in the creation of the army.
Myers, who recently returned from Kabul, said the creation of the army "could quite likely require American trainers in there for a period of time".
"I think everybody's very, very concerned that this chance that Afghanistan has to provide the services that the citizens of that county deserve after decades of
upheaval and turmoil, that we all have to do what we can," he told "Fox News Sunday".
Myers also said it was likely terror suspect Osama bin Laden had survived the US-led bombing assaults on Afghanistan, but maintained that he would eventually be
"It's possible that he is no longer alive, but I think the odds are he probably is alive," he said.
"We will get bin Laden, but he's not the only one we're searching for. There are several lieutenants yet and higher authorities in al-Qaeda" who are also on the US
radar screen, he said.
Khalilzad said the war against remnants of bin Laden's al-Qaeda network and the ousted Taliban regime was among the issues he discussed with Afghan leaders, as
well as the security situation and "regional issues", particularly relations with neighbouring Iran.
He said relations between Iran and Afghanistan must be "based on non-interference".
Karzai arrived Sunday in Tehran to a red-carpet welcome on his first trip to the Iranian capital since taking power, amid repeated US allegations that Tehran is
attempting to undermine the UN-backed interim administration.
He held talks with President Mohammad Khatami, which are likely to cover the reconstruction of Afghanistan, cultural relations and the presence of two million
Afghan refugees in Iran.
Iran's influential former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, on Saturday issued a caution to the new Afghan leaders to keep their distance from the United
"We hope the new (Afghan) leaders will not become instruments in the service of the United States, as they will then be regarded in the same way as the US
oppressors," he said Saturday.
Washington has alleged that Tehran has allowed al-Qaeda fighters and members of the Taliban regime to enter Iran from Afghanistan.
Iran, a bitter foe of the Taliban regime which sheltered bin Laden, has strongly denied the allegations and said it would deport any al-Qaeda members it finds inside
Iran, along with Russia and India, strongly backed the opposition Northern Alliance during the Taliban's five-year regime.
Tehran has since pledged 560 million dollars to Afghan reconstruction over five years.
Karzai Wants US, Iran Cooperation In Afghan Rebuilding
Monday February 25, 1:50 AM
TEHRAN (AP)--Interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, on a visit to Tehran Sunday, called upon the U.S. and Iran to put aside their differences and cooperate in the
reconstruction of his country.
Following a meeting with Karzai, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami rejected renewed U.S. accusations that Iran seeks to destabilize its neighbor, saying, "Iran
from the very beginning has recognized the government of Afghanistan and thinks strengthening this government is its responsibility."
"Naturally, Iran has had and will have an important role in Afghanistan. We will do anything we can without even thinking of interfering in Afghanistan," Khatami told
Karzai said both Iran and the U.S. had helped Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban.
"We would like to ask the countries, even the ones with differences among them, to put aside their differences and cooperate with us in the reconstruction," Karzai
"Iran can play a very important role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Iran is a country with huge facilities and has goodwill in this regard," he said.
Iran has repeatedly denied the U.S. charges and said it supported Karzai. Karzai, who was accompanied by 10 Cabinet ministers and other officials, will discuss
improving bilateral ties and returning Afghan refugees to their country during the three-day visit to Tehran.
Mohsen Aminzadeh, Iran's deputy foreign minister for Asia and the Pacific and a close Khatami aide, said Karzai's visit was of extreme importance.
"Since it is the first visit by Afghanistan's interim leader, we attach great importance to it. It is a historic and important visit for bilateral relations," Aminzadeh told The
Associated Press Sunday.
Earlier Sunday, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, repeated Washington's accusations that Iran was protecting fleeing al-Qaida and Taliban
members and sending commandos into Afghanistan to undermine the U.S.-backed interim administration.
Meanwhile, Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah told reporters that Afghanistan welcomed Iran's contribution to the reconstruction of his country.
"Iran can play an important role in reconstruction of Afghanistan. We will be happy to use Iran's experience in rebuilding our country," Abdullah said.
Iran has pledged over $500 million over five years for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Afghans to wake up to breakfast radio show
Monday February 25, 12:47 AM
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - "Good Morning Afghanistan", a daily breakfast radio show funded by the European Commission, will go on air from Kabul this week, the
European Union's executive arm said on Sunday. The first edition of the two-hour programme in Pashtu and Dari, which can be received by up to 80 percent of the
war-torn country's population, will be broadcast on Monday.
The Commission said the programme would focus on factual information but also provide entertainment and education.
The Commission's 235,000 euro funding for the programme was part of a 4.9 million euro package of quick-impact projects for the country after U.S.-led military
action swept away the ruling Taliban last year.
An Afghan team of 20 young journalists representative of the population will put together the programme from the old Kabul Radio building, using donated
second-hand equipment from European radio stations.
It will be produced by a Danish-based non-governmental organisation, the Baltic Media Centre, in partnership with Radio Afghanistan.
The centre is an independent, mainly Danish-funded foundation dedicated to "promoting democracy, social development and peaceful international cooperation
through active participation of the media".
The Commission said there would be a two-minute overlap where Pashtu and Dari broadcasters discuss news items in the two languages, aimed at
confidence-building between various ethnic groups.
U.S. said to think bin Laden alive on Afghan border
Sunday February 24, 7:58 PM
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Osama bin Laden survived U.S. bombing raids on Tora Bora and other mountainous Afghan regions and probably remains hidden in the
remote terrain straddling Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, the New York Times reported on Sunday, citing senior Bush administration officials.
The Times reported that unidentified senior administration officials said they have new indications that the Saudi-born extremist blamed by the United States for the
September 11 attacks remains at large in the border area. The evidence casts doubt on earlier theories that bin Laden had been killed in the war, died of kidney
disease or fled to Iran or Yemen.
The officials cited by the newspaper said the fresh assessment of bin Laden's whereabouts is based on information gained within the past month. A senior
administration official said the new evidence was "very fragile" and refused to provide further details.
But the Times quoted the official as saying: "We are quite certain he is alive and we think he is somewhere between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It may be that he
moves back and forth between the two."
The newspaper said other officials said the area where bin Laden might be hiding was in southeastern Afghanistan and adjacent tribal areas of the Pakistani provinces
of the Northwest Frontier and Baluchistan that have been strongholds of Islamic militancy and deeply suspicious of outside interference.
The Times said the Bush administration is not claiming to have bin Laden cornered. It quoted on official as saying capturing or killing Mr. bin Laden appeared to be
"a long-term proposition."
Defense officials cited by the newspaper said none of the recent information has been specific enough to mount new attacks on suspected hide-outs like the
bombardment of Tora Bora in November and December, and around the city of Khost farther south in January.
A senior official told the Times that a review of the U.S. military action in Afghanistan has concluded that "we've probably gotten about a third of the core leadership"
of bin Laden's al Qaeda guerrilla group. The White House now defines the scope of that leadership as between 20 and 25 key figures.
Pakistan hunts Arab suspect in Pearl case
By Brian Williams Monday February 25, 6:09 AM
KARACHI (Reuters) - Pakistani police are hunting an Arab man possibly linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda group in connection with the kidnap-murder of
U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl, an authoritative police source said on Sunday.
As Pakistani investigators widened their dragnet to the border with Afghanistan, the source said the involvement of a mystery Arab was the clearest signal yet of a
possible direct link to al Qaeda, blamed for the September 11 hijacked airliner attacks on the United States.
Police learned of the Arab while interrogating several of the alleged kidnappers already in custody, including the ringleader, British-born extremist Ahmed Omar
Saeed Sheikh, who has admitted to Karachi police that he orchestrated Pearl's abduction.
"One of our prisoners told us that, at a meeting of the gang in a Karachi home called by Sheikh Omar just two days before the kidnap to discuss final plans, there
was an Arab present," the source told Reuters.
Sheikh Omar was secretly indicted in the United States last November for the 1994 kidnapping of four Western tourists, including an American, Newsweek
magazine reported on Sunday.
Quoting a Bush administration official, Newsweek said U.S. officials had been trying to have him arrested and extradited just before Pearl was abducted.
Pakistan government spokesman General Rashid Qureshi said he was surprised by the report because he understood requests for arrest and extradition from foreign
governments to Pakistan needed to be made publicly.
"I haven't heard about this thing before," he told Reuters.
Pearl disappeared in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, on January 23 as he tried to contact Islamic radical groups to investigate possible links between alleged shoe
bomber Richard Reid and al Qaeda.
"Right now we don't know the identity of the Arab and also what role he played in the kidnapping. But we have enough evidence now to say that some foreign
nationals probably connected to al Qaeda were part of the kidnappers' gang or at least deeply involved in its planning," the police source said.
He said that in hunting the remaining members of the group, including the Arab and the new leader of the band, Amjad Hussain Farooqi, police raided homes in
Pakistani provinces bordering Afghanistan.
U.S. and Pakistani security forces are searching for bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar in the same area.
Hussain, who police have established fought in Afghanistan for the Taliban and also possibly al Qaeda, took over the group after Sheikh Omar's arrest on February
The suspects still at large are believed to have carried out the videotaped killing of Pearl, whose throat was slit while he was talking to the camera.
Residents of Hussain's home village, known as 682/27-GB in Punjab Province 350 km (220 miles) south of Islamabad, have told Reuters he visited nine days before
Pearl's kidnap in Karachi and was accompanied by Sheikh Omar and an Arabic-speaking man.
Sheikh Omar, 28, returns to a Karachi anti-terrorism court on Monday for a hearing on extending his detention order.
In his statement to police on his arrest, he said the kidnap was carried out to retaliate for a crackdown by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on Islamic militants
threatening to disrupt the presence of U.S. forces in Pakistan.
Pearl 'kidnapper' sought by US
Sunday, 24 February, 2002, 23:58 GMT
The US wanted to extradite Sheikh Omar
The confessed mastermind behind the abduction of US journalist Daniel Pearl will face murder charges in Pakistan, Karachi police have said.
Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, also known as Sheikh Omar, could also be brought before a United States military tribunal, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
He would be someone that I would assume that our law enforcement people would extradite
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
The British-born militant is said to have confessed to being behind the kidnapping of Mr Pearl, and gave differing stories to police about whether the Wall Street
Journal reporter was alive or dead.
The US State Department said on Thursday that Mr Pearl, 38, had been killed by his captors after officials received a video tape showing Mr Pearl with his throat
"Police will submit the interim charge sheet of the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl on Monday in the court," police investigator Manzoor Mughal told the
French news agency AFP.
Sheikh Omar would then be allowed to apply for bail - though he could face the death penalty if found guilty of abduction or murder.
Mr Rumsfeld said Sheikh Omar filled all the criteria for going in front of one of the military tribunals set up by the United States after the 11 September attacks.
Presided over by military judges, they have been criticised for requiring a lower burden of proof and offering those convicted limited rights of appeal.
"He certainly is someone that has committed a crime against an American and would be someone that I assume that our law enforcement people would extradite,"
Mr Rumsfeld told US TV network CBS.
"It is the president's call as to who would be appropriate for a commission, a military commission, on his order."
The US had secretly indicted Sheikh Omar for an earlier kidnapping and was calling for his arrest before Mr Pearl was abducted, the American magazine
Newsweek reported on Sunday.
Steiger: "An outstanding colleague, a great reporter and a dear friend"
He was indicted by the US Justice Department in November for the 1994 kidnapping of three Britons and an American in India, Newsweek reported, quoting a
Bush administration official.
US federal agents had been tracking him for years and US ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlin discussed a possible extradition with Pakistan's foreign
minister two weeks before Mr Pearl was kidnapped, the magazine said.
Pakistan jailed Sheikh Omar for the 1994 abductions. He was later released in return for hijacked Indian plane passengers.
Police are still hunting for the others involved in the 23 January abduction and subsequent murder of Mr Pearl.
The most wanted man is Amjad Hussain Faruqi, an Islamic militant believed to have driven Mr Pearl from his Karachi hotel while he was following a story on the
Officers are also looking for at least four accomplices, some of whom are believed to be Arab nationals.
Bin Laden link
Police sources have said leads increasingly pointed to the Pakistani frontier town of Peshawar and Baluchistan province bordering Afghanistan as possible hideouts
for the gang.
US and Pakistani security forces are searching for the leader of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and deposed Taleban leader Mullah Omar in the same area.
Sheikh Omar told an anti-terrorism court on 14 February that he was behind Mr Pearl's kidnapping.
He has also said that he met Bin Laden in Afghanistan after the 11 September attacks and wanted to teach the US a lesson.
Two suspects accused of sending e-mails of Mr Pearl in captivity will also appear in court on Monday.
A third man has already been jailed.
U.S. May Send Advisers to Afghanistan
Sun Feb 24, 9:26 AM ET By KATHY GANNON, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - The United States may send military advisers to try to rein in feuding Afghan warlords, the special U.S. envoy to Afghanistan said
Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters that conflicts between rival Afghan militias are a major concern for the United States, which supports the administration of interim
Prime Minister Hamid Karzai.
Khalilzad said the best approach for curbing the problem would be to establish a well-trained Afghan national army, although experts say that will take many months.
"There is also the possibility that military advisers could be put in areas where there is the danger of potential conflict among forces or armies that exist in order to
deter and discourage a return to conflict," Khalilzad said.
"Or, where we have special forces in place, those forces could be given this additional mission of advising, with regard to a discouragement of a return to conflict," he
Last week, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the United States did not want to be drawn into Afghan faction fighting.
The main mission of the American military here is to hunt down remaining Taliban and al-Qaida holdouts following the collapse of Taliban rule last year.
Last week, The New York Times reported that U.S. warplanes had flown flew bombing raids that Afghan commanders in the area said were aimed at warring militia
forces rather than the Taliban or al-Qaida.
According to the newspaper, the bombing raids marked the first time U.S. airpower had been used in defense of the Karzai government.
Myers said those airstrikes had been in defense of American troops and not directed against Afghan factions.
"The goals haven't changed and that's to eliminate the Taliban and al-Qaida," Myers told reporters Wednesday at the U.S.-controlled base at Kandahar.
Despite talk of a "change in policy, there is no change in policy," Myers said.
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