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2003-04-27 - 5:09 p.m.

U.S. to Announce End of Afghan Combat

By Vernon Loeb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 27, 2003; Page A30

SHANNON, Ireland, April 26 -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today he will meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to discuss a formal declaration ending combat operations by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and shifting their role to promoting stability in most parts of the country.

While Rumsfeld said only that he planned to discuss the declaration with Karzai, a Bush administration statement issued late Friday said the declaration would be announced when the two leaders meet.

Karzai and Rumsfeld "will jointly announce that the United States, in coordination with the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan and our coalition partners, is ready to advance to a new phase and transition from combat operations to stability operations in Afghanistan," the statement said. "A key component of this phase is the deployment of Provincial Reconstruction Teams throughout the country in key urban areas."

As many as eight such teams, comprising U.S. and allied military and civilian authorities, are to be established in cities across Afghanistan to improve living conditions for Afghans and show that Karzai's central government is extending its authority and assistance to outlying provinces. Three teams already have begun operations in Kunduz, Bamian and Gardez.

"We believe the cooperation we're engaged in with President Karzai and his government, with respect to the Provincial Reconstruction Teams, is the kind of thing that will demonstrate to the people of Afghanistan that supporting the central government is a good thing, it benefits them, and that that is the path of the future," Rumsfeld told reporters traveling with him to Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf.

Despite the plan to formally declare combat operations over, U.S. troops in Afghanistan are continuing to battle gunmen believed to be remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda. "They'd like to take back Afghanistan and turn it back into a terrorist training camp and a place to launch attacks against people across the globe, and we intended to see that that doesn't happen," Rumsfeld said.

Military spokesmen at Bagram air base, the U.S. military headquarters near Kabul, announced today that a second American soldier had died from wounds suffered in a firefight in eastern Afghanistan. Thirty U.S. and allied soldiers have died in combat since the war in Afghanistan began in October 2001, and 11,500 soldiers from 23 nations remain in the country.

After his talks with Karzai and meetings with U.S. commanders and troops in Afghanistan, Rumsfeld plans to continue on to the Persian Gulf region for consultations with regional allies and Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of military operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Pentagon ground rules for the trip required that Rumsfeld's exact itinerary be left vague for security reasons, but Franks and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both have said in recent days that they expected Rumsfeld to visit Iraq.

Rumsfeld bristled when asked whether his trip amounted to a victory tour.

"It isn't," he said. "We've got a lot of hard work left. People are still being shot at, in some cases killed and wounded. The task before us in Iraq is clearly one that's going to take a lot of attention, a lot of focus and a lot of effort over a period of time."

Rumsfeld said his trip was designed to thank troops for their heroics in Afghanistan and Iraq and to demonstrate to the people of both nations that the United States remained deeply committed to rebuilding their homelands and presiding over a transition from authoritarian rule to "something that's on the [path] towards a more democratic and representative system in each country."

Rumsfeld said he also wanted to discuss military basing arrangements with allies in the Persian Gulf region "as we look forward to the end at some point of major combat activity in Iraq." But he gave no indication that a declaration formally ending combat activities in Iraq and beginning stability operations was at hand.

Rumsfeld said the Bush administration's support for the Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan is in addition to its efforts to train and equip a national army. The administration is also working with a 5,500-soldier International Security Assistance Force, which operates in the greater Kabul area.

While peacekeeping experts have long called for an expansion of the International Security Assistance Force throughout the country, Rumsfeld said that such expansion had been blocked by a lack of countries willing to commit troops. Long reluctant to use U.S. forces for a purely peacekeeping mission, Rumsfeld said more international peacekeepers in Afghanistan would probably be beneficial. But their presence would also run the risk, he said, that Afghans "can become dependent on them."

2003 The Washington Post Company


[And just ten days before, this information came down the wire about Afghan's Taliban]

Pro-Taliban fliers call for jihad against U.S.

Islamabad |From Shahid Hussain | 17-04-2003

Pashtu language pro-Taliban leaflets urging Afghans to wage jihad (holy war) against U.S.-led coalition forces and their "puppets" in Afghanistan were circulated overnight at refugee camps in northwest Pakistan, Afghan and official sources said yesterday.

The pamphlets were found scattered around several refugee camps in the region bordering Afghanistan. Pakistan shelters around 1. 5 million Afghans, a majority of them living in camps in the northwestern region.

The unsigned fliers were distributed in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan on Monday night, the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) said.

The undated and unsigned pamphlets bear a 'Declaration by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA'" which the Taliban had set up under Mulla Mohammed Omar.

The Taliban supreme leader went into hiding after the ouster of the Islamic militia from power in November 2001 a month after the U.S.-led coalition forces launched military operations in Afghanistan.

Taliban remnants and other anti-government elements have carried out stray attacks from time to time since then, though they have posed no serious threat to the coalition-backed administration of President Hamid Karzai.

Two American soldiers and several Afghan government troops were reportedly killed over the past few weeks in rebel attacks in southern and eastern regions of the country.

The pamphlets came in the wake of accusations by Afghan officials that Taliban remnants were regrouping in the border region with Pakistan and had launched a series of attacks on the U.S. and Afghan forces in recent weeks.

A message purported to be from elusive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar was distributed in northwestern Pakistan in February, calling for jihad, or holy war, against the United States and the Karzai government.

The pamphlet vows that the IEA plans to start "extensive military operations" in all parts of Afghanistan to "teach an unforgettable lesson to the U.S. imperialism."

It recalls that Afghans had in the past defeated "brazen and merciless invasions of the British and the Russians."

The leaflet in part says: "Afghanistan is a soil of honour, courage and sacred sacrifices. Today once again the great Satan of the world, the United States, and its Zionist exploiters have invaded our heroic nation and sacred soil.

"They play upon the identity of the Afghans. They kill Afghans. They put tribal and religious personalities in chains and are engaged in laying infidel traps and plans.

"In the guise of a few bowl-licking Shah Shojas, Afghan kings of the 19th Century installed by the British and regarded as a puppets, they intend to subjugate the Afghans to the Jews for ever.

"Faithful masses! You are aware of the fact that the puppet administration which has been set up by the British and the United States has brought nothing but prostitution, banditry and slavery as a gift to the Afghans.

"It is for this reason that the infidel-crushing mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan consider that the only path towards prosperity, salvation and progress for the Islamic Ummah and in particular for the mujahed nation of Afghanistan is the path of sacred jihad and struggle.

"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan - in accordance with a decision made by the true mujaheddin, the respected Ulema and tribal leaders - intend to begin extensive military operations in all parts and regions of the country, and thus teach, with the help of God, an unforgettable lesson to the U.S. imperialism in Afghanistan," the leaflet stated.

"Rise with your high Afghan pride, faith and courage and direct your swords against the infidel and its puppets," it added.

"We ask those Afghans, who are cooperating with the puppet administration, to adhere to their Afghan pledge and national awareness and give up these ranks and rise against them," it was pointed out.

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