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Sunday, 1 December, 2002, 20:23 GMT
US bombs Afghan targets
New recruits in training for Ismail Khan's new army
Ismail Khan has built a power base in Herat
A US plane has bombed a target in western Afghanistan - the first time the US has used a B-52 bomber in the country in five months.

The plane dropped seven 2,000-pound (907-kilogram) laser-guided bombs.

The raid came amid fighting between rival warlords Ismail Khan and Amanullah Khan in the region, but US military officials denied the two events were connected.

The clash near the city of Shindand in Herat province left at least 11 people dead. It underlined the central government's lack of control outside Kabul on the eve of an important conference on Afghanistan.

Separately, six bombs were discovered in a residential neighbourhood in Kabul shortly after an explosion at a coalition base in the southeast of the country.

Ethnic fault line

Fighting broke out on Saturday between the forces of Ismail Khan and Amanullah Khan near Shindand, with each side accusing the other of firing first.

There have been regular clashes between the ethnic Tajik forces of Herat governor Ismail Khan, who controls most of western Afghanistan, and Pashtun commander Amanullah Khan. The most recent took place a month ago.

The village where the fighting began lies on the fault line between the Tajik-dominated north-west and the majority Pashtun south.

Amanullah Khan said he believed the US bombing was intended to split the front line of the clash.

But US Lieutenant Tina Kroske told the BBC that the air assistance was called in by US special forces after they came under fire on the ground. No Americans are reported to have been injured.

She said Washington was staying out of factional fighting between Afghan groups.

"We do not get involved" in inter-Afghan fighting, she told the French news agency AFP. "In fact, we discourage it."

Bonn conference

The clashes came on the eve of a conference in the German city of Bonn to check Afghanistan's progress toward peace.


You had 23 years of savage conflict - it is childish to think you can put Afghanistan back together in 23 months

UN Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi
Amanullah Khan said he spoke to President Hamid Karzai before the Afghan leader left for Bonn and that he was promised that the government would send a delegation to secure a ceasefire.

But despite numerous truces between the two sides, the Karzai government has been incapable of enforcing a peace.

UN Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi told the BBC's Kylie Morris that it was unreasonable to expect it to do so.

"The government does not own the equipment ... that would allow it to exercise control over the country," he said.

"This country has always been very loosely linked," he added. "Then you had 23 years of savage conflict. It is childish to think you can put it back together in 23 months."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai
Mr Karzai has not been able to enforce peace
The president and other senior Afghan politicians, as well as international players in Afghanistan's future, have left for Bonn to carry out a health check on the national recovery, which began with the so-called Bonn Agreement a year ago.

They will have to address the failure of warlords like Ismail Khan to accept its terms and renounce his private militia and private power.

The conference begins on Monday.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Kylie Morris reports from Kabul
"We have a casualty toll of up to eleven people"

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See also:

07 Jul 02 | Country profiles
05 Nov 02 | South Asia
30 Oct 02 | South Asia
28 Oct 02 | South Asia
05 Sep 02 | South Asia
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