Union Tribune

April 28, 2002

Rumsfeld pledges aid in building Afghan army
U.S. forces won't be peacekeepers


KABUL, Afghanistan Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld,
making his second trip here since the war against terrorism was
launched in October, yesterday promised interim Afghan Prime
Minister Hamid Karzai help in building a permanent army.

But Rumsfeld declined to commit U.S. forces as part of an
international peacekeeping effort, as the Afghan leader had

"Development of a national army is not an easy task," Rumsfeld
said. "There will be U.S. money that will be freed up in the
immediate future to begin that process in May."

Britain and France have pledged to help fund and train a new
Afghan army. Afghanistan has been at war internally for more
than 20 years and faces a constant threat that rivalries among
local warlords and among ethnic groups could erupt,
threatening what stability has existed since the fall of the Taliban regime.

Karzai had called for a broader and more prolonged
international security presence, but appeared to accept
Rumsfeld's preference for helping Afghanistan to develop its own army.

"I would rather be inclined to see the United States train for
Afghanistan a good, strong national army so that we can in the
future fend for our own," Karzai said. "If we can get our own
national army . . . why would we ask for an increase of foreign
troops' presence in Afghanistan?"

During a news conference with Karzai, Rumsfeld declined to
deny growing reports that U.S. troops are operating inside
Pakistan. Asked four times about reports of U.S. forces in
Pakistan tracking Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters escaping across
the Afghan border, he would not deny them.

"We have situations around the world where for whatever
reasons countries prefer to characterize what they're doing and
what they're allowing other countries to do," Rumsfeld said.

More violence was reported in Afghanistan yesterday, with at
least 15 people killed and 100 wounded in Gardiz, south of

On Friday, at least one rocket was fired at the Kabul airport,
forcing Rumsfeld's entourage to rework travel plans into the

Yesterday, in a long day marked by intense security and warm
greetings, Rumsfeld visited a U.S. base in Bagram and the
western Afghan town of Herat.

At an empty Herat airport, Rumsfeld was greeted in a bizarre
ceremony by Ismail Khan, the Tajik warlord who runs most of
southwestern Afghanistan with little deference to Kabul.

Khan, a small, turbaned man with a long white beard, had
assembled a host of local dignitaries and an honor guard and
band in green uniforms with white spats.

The defense secretary started yesterday in Kyrgyzstan, where he
met with President Askar Akayev.

Rumsfeld then flew to Bagram in an Air Force C-17 combat
transport plane instead of the airliner he flew out of Washington
on Thursday. The big gray jet has defenses against anti-aircraft

Bagram is a virtual fortress, with barriers of coiled razor wire
and large, sand-filled canvas boxes. Heavily armed soldiers were
posted every few yards along the routes Rumsfeld took within
the compound, and he was accompanied by several security

Rumsfeld had been scheduled to drive to Kabul. But because of
security concerns, he traveled there and back in Army MH-47
Chinook helicopters.

The helicopters landed within the heavily defended U.S.
Embassy complex, where Rumsfeld received a briefing on what
has changed since his visit in December. He then traveled to the
presidential complex to meet with Karzai and other officials.

The secretary ended his 18-hour day this morning in Ashgabat,
Turkmenistan, where he was to meet with officials before visiting Kazakstan.

The Houston Chronicle and the New York Times News Service contributed to this