Focus shifting to preventing attacks on puppet Afghan government

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 25 May 2002 09:11:09 +0100

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) Warning of possible violence as another shift in
Afghanistan's government nears, the head of the international mission
guarding the capital said Thursday that he has refocused the force to
concentrate more on fighting terrorism. 

British Maj. Gen. John McColl, chief of the International Security
Assistance Forces, said the force wants a safe environment for the
meeting June 10-15 of a traditional grand council that will choose a
transitional administration to replace a U.N.-installed one. The council
is called a loya jirga. 

''It's reasonable to assume that as we move toward the loya jirga, there
will be those who move to disrupt the process, interfere with the
process. And therefore I think we have to be ready for an increase in
the level of terrorism,'' McColl told a news conference. 

The peacekeeping force has been patrolling Kabul since January, working
with the interim government and a new police force to prevent the
violence and lawlessness that threatened to engulf the city after a
U.S.-led coalition forced the Taliban from power. 

At least three attacks on the peacekeepers one in February and two last
month suggest that terrorists are still working against the force,
McColl said. 

''That's three attacks too many,'' he said. ''We need to bear down on

Kabul residents have welcomed the peacekeeping force, saying it gives
them security they have not known in years by preventing the factional
warfare that destroyed large parts of the capital during the 1990s and
paved the way for the Taliban's rise to power. 

''Now there is peace here. The war is over, and things here have
improved because of these international soldiers,'' Norullah, a
shopkeeper with only one name, said Thursday at his store in western
Kabul, which is largely rubble. ''It is very good that they stay.
Without them, fighting could have started again between the factions.'' 

As of Thursday, the peacekeeping force included 4,482 troops from nearly
two dozen nations. It has a six-month mandate that expires June 20. 

The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday informally agreed to the extend
the mandate for another six months but refused Afghan leaders' requests
to expand the force beyond Kabul. 

McColl said deploying peacekeepers beyond the capital would ''reduce the
urgency'' of the country to chart its own future and regenerate its
military and police. 

''There's absolutely no doubt that they have to take responsibility and
ownership of their own problems. And they understand those problems far
better than we do,'' he said. 

The peacekeeping force does not answer directly to the United Nations.
It was established in a U.N.-brokered agreement signed by four Afghan
factions in Bonn, Germany, on Dec. 5, which called for a multinational
security force and asked the Security Council to authorize it. 

Next month, Britain turns over control of the force to Turkey. The
Turkish military says it will send an advance party Friday. Turkey
already has some 270 peacekeepers on the force and is expected to deploy
another 1,000. 

In other developments Thursday: 

A blast caused by a land mine or stray explosive rocked a Canadian
armored vehicle near Kandahar during a routine reconnaissance mission,
but the six soldiers inside were not injured, said Canadian Maj. Mike
Audette. He also said Canadian troops had returned from an unspecified
''security operation'' in the Khost region after ''several weeks.'' 

A convoy carrying more than 4,000 Afghan refugees left Karachi, Pakistan
for Afghanistan as part of a U.N.-sponsored effort to repatriate Afghan
citizens willing to return to their war-ravaged country. 

Australia said Thursday that Afghan families seeking asylum in that
country will get up to $5,600 if they agree to return home. About 1,000
Afghans held in detention centers on mainland Australia and the
neighboring Pacific island state of Nauru would be eligible. 

Source:  Associated Press

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