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Last Updated: Friday, 9 May, 2003, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Afghan war 'far from over'
Stephen Cviic
BBC News

Richard Armitage at the National Museum in Kabul
The US envoy met leaders in Kabul

US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has been having talks in Afghanistan with President Hamid Karzai. One-and-a-half years after the US and its allies took control, peacekeepers are on the ground but the war is far from over.

Afghanistan today is a patchwork of local fiefdoms, mostly run by former militia leaders or warlords.

These local rulers owe nominal allegiance to the central government in Kabul, but despite this they often behave independently.

Kabul itself is a special case because it is home to President Karzai and to an international peace-keeping force of 5,000 men.

There are real doubts that the Taleban can be fully defeated and local warlords' power broken

In addition to the international peace-keepers, there are a total of 8,000 US troops on the ground in Afghanistan, involved mainly in military operations.

The war in Afghanistan is far from over.

The Taleban have regrouped in rural areas of the south, and there has recently been an upsurge in violence around the city of Kandahar.

Many Western aid workers have left the area in fear for their lives.

National army

The United Nations will shortly begin efforts to demobilise militia men all over the country, in preparation for national elections in June next year.

By that time, security is supposed to have passed partly into the hands of the new national army, which is currently being trained by the Americans.

Around 4,000 men have already been through the process; the army is eventually meant to number 70,000.

1st Battalion Afghan National Guard at a presentation ceremony in July 2002
Afghan army due to take over security before elections next year

Although the US has always said it does not want to be involved in nation-building, it is helping to fund both infrastructure projects - such as the rebuilding of the main highway from Kabul to Kandahar - and the training of new tax and customs collectors.

Millions of Afghan refugees have returned to the country since the end of the war, and the Americans have recently set up local reconstruction teams to be deployed around the country.

But there is little sense of economic progress, and there are real doubts about whether the Taleban can be fully defeated and the power of local warlords broken.

US envoy reassures Afghan leaders
09 May 03  |  South Asia
Afghan militias agree to unity
21 Apr 03  |  South Asia
US offers Afghans continued support
15 Jan 03  |  South Asia

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