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Friday, 16 November, 2001, 13:15 GMT
Bringing stability to Afghanistan
Street in Kabul
Moves are under way to secure the Afghan capital
Jonathan Marcus

British and French troops are clearing the way for humanitarian aid deliveries, and plans are in motion to establish an international presence in Kabul, but international action on the ground in Afghanistan still falls short of a full-scale peace-keeping force for the country.

A division of labour is, however, already being established between the United States and its allies.

UK troops
British troops are clearing the way for humanitarian deliveries at the Bagram airbase
The Americans look set to continue to bear the brunt of the military campaign against the Taleban and al-Qaeda.

Britain, France, Turkey and others look ready to take on the responsibility of helping to stabilise the situation in Kabul and the north.

Preparations are under way for a massive airlift of humanitarian aid and supplies.

A British technical assessment team is surveying the airport at Bagram, north of Kabul, and the French may well get the airfield in Mazar-e-Sharif up and running.

Beyond this there is talk about a Turkish-led multinational force to police Kabul.

The aim of all this is clearly to try to prepare the population to face the winter and to ensure that Kabul does not collapse into chaos before some sort of interim political arrangements can be put together.

Informal arrangements

While individual countries have offered troops or technical expertise, very little has so far been said about the way in which these various initiatives are being coordinated.

This is a very different situation from that in the Balkans, where international interventions in both Bosnia and Kosovo were coordinated by Nato and went in as a fully-fledged stabilisation force.

The current efforts are less formal and the mission seems far less defined - partly humanitarian relief, partly peace-keeping - though few people want to describe it in quite these terms.

The force in Kabul - which would probably take in troops from other Muslim countries like Bangladesh and Indonesia - is especially important.

Its task is to signal that no single faction can have long-term control over the Afghan capital.

Nation-building is now firmly on the agenda, and there is a growing sense of a need to get things moving on the ground.

See also:

16 Nov 01 | UK Politics
UK troops prepare ground
16 Nov 01 | South Asia
US jets pound Kandahar
02 Nov 01 | South Asia
Kandahar's troubled past
15 Nov 01 | South Asia
Hazaras march on Kabul
15 Nov 01 | South Asia
UN seeks to unite Afghan factions
15 Nov 01 | South Asia
UN aid shipment reaches Afghanistan
16 Nov 01 | South Asia
Al-Qaeda nuclear plans confirmed
15 Nov 01 | South Asia
Interview with Mullah Omar - transcript
14 Nov 01 | South Asia
Bin Laden 'safe inside Afghanistan'
14 Nov 01 | South Asia
Pakistan wants UN force in Kabul
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