U.S. general working to establish Afghan army

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A U.S. general began a mission on Monday to help Afghanistan establish a national army with fighters loyal to the central government instead of the tribal leaders or warlords.

The visit by Maj. Gen. Charles Campbell, chief of staff of the U.S. Central Command, is part of a plan to create a training program for the Afghan army, a U.S. military representative said.

U.S. soldiers are expected to arrive in about a month to begin training an Afghan force of about 600 men, the official said. The Afghan officers would go on to train future army units.

Since the fall of the Taliban, warlords have sought to extend their authority in several provinces. The cohesion of the government itself came into question last week when interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai accused high-ranking officials in his administration of assassinating the aviation and tourism minister.

Virtually every day brings a reminder that Afghanistan has a long way to go in its pursuit of peace.

Land- and sea-based planes launched airstrikes against enemy forces in eastern Afghanistan over the weekend after coalition forces were attacked while trying to pass a roadblock, U.S. officials confirmed.

And police in Pakistan found four rockets aimed at part of Karachi International Airport used by the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan. Waqar Mulan, an airport security official, said the Chinese-made rockets were equipped with homemade launchers and a timing device for automatic firing.

Police defused the rockets without incident.

Afghan authorities, meanwhile, disputed U.S. accounts of a firefight at the U.S.-controlled base at Kandahar last week, saying their inquiry shows American forces there probably never came under attack.

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