U.S. Troops to Provide Security for Afghan President

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 24, 2002 -- American troops will temporarily provide Afghan President Hamid Karzai's personal security, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said July 22.

"We certainly look at it as a relatively short-term matter. . Whether it's weeks or months or several months, I don't know," Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon. He noted Karzai asked for the assistance in the wake of recent assassinations of key officials of his fledgling government in Kabul.

U.S. and coalition troops are now busy training the Afghan National Army, which, DoD officials said, "is paramount in providing stability to the country of Afghanistan and preventing the re-emergence of terrorism." The first battalion of the Afghan's army graduated from training July 23.

Rumsfeld implied that that training could also be employed to produce a new security force for the Afghan president.

"There is an interest, an active interest, in seeing that people are trained for that kind of a security role," Rumsfeld said, adding that U.S. troops would provide some of that training.

Karzai was chosen president of Afghanistan's transitional government June 13 at a meeting of the loya jirga, the country's governmental body.

Gunmen killed Afghan Vice President Haji Abdul Qadir July 6 in Kabul. Air Transportation and Tourism Minister Abdul Rahman was killed at the Kabul airport in February during a riot involving irate Muslim travelers.

It's essential to the well-being of the fledgling Afghan government "that the outcome of the loya jirga not be negated by violence," Rumsfeld said. The Afghan people chose Karzai to lead the transitional government for the next two years, he said.

"His security is important . to the people of Afghanistan, and, needless to say, we want to be as helpful and cooperative as we can," Rumsfeld concluded.