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Monday, 17 December, 2001, 11:20 GMT
US expects Afghan peace force soon
Kabul street
Kabul will be the focus of peacekeeping operations
The first troops from an international peacekeeping force are expected to arrive in Afghanistan by the end of the week, a United States envoy has said.

James Dobbins, Washington's special envoy to Afghanistan, said on Monday that he anticipated "at least lead elements" of the force to reach the capital Kabul by 22 December, when the new interim government is due to take power.

He said he did not expect "a large number" of troops to be stationed in Kabul.


Enough

James Dobbins
on the number
of peacekeepers
to be deployed
Former Nato commander Wesley Clark told the BBC that 5,000 troops would be needed to keep peace in the city.

But US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Sunday that he expected 3,000 to 5,000 troops to be deployed in the whole of Afghanistan.

The US is not expected to provide peacekeeping troops.

General Mohammed Fahim, designated as the new government's defence minister, has said that no more than 1,000 peacekeepers were needed, and that they would merely provide security for the new administration.

But some Western countries have argued that about 8,000 troops will be necessary to maintain stability in and around Kabul, as the new interim government takes power.

Unclear mandate

There is also uncertainty about the mandate of the peacekeepers, which will be authorised by the United Nations.

Abdullah Abdullah
Abdullah Abdullah: Views may be at odds with UK

Foreign Minister Dr Abdullah Abdullah has said he accepted the need for a multi-national peacekeeping contingent - but with restrictions on its ability to use force.

He wants the force to be deployed on the basis of Chapter Six of the UN Charter, which allows the use of force only for self-defence.

General Clark said the troops should have a Chapter Seven mandate, which would allow them to use force to carry out their mission.

Several countries planning to send troops are thought to agree with General Clark.

Persuasion

A Western military team arrived in Kabul on Sunday to urge the interim administration to accept a substantial international peacekeeping presence.

The party, led by British Major General John McColl, includes representatives from various other countries including France, Canada and Italy.

UN soldiers
UN force was agreed under Bonn deal
General McColl said on Sunday he hoped to "ensure a meeting of minds" with representatives of the future interim government on the issue.

He stressed that no decisions had been made on the suggested force.

General McColl said he had been "very encouraged" by what he had seen on his first day in the "peaceful" capital and was looking forward to his meetings.

The UN is still discussing the mechanics of setting up the force, and has not yet issued a resolution authorising its deployment. That is expected this week.

The force is being set up under the terms of the Bonn agreement between Afghan factions, which created a new post-Taleban political set-up for the country.

Britain has indicated it is prepared to lead such a force if asked, but will not make an official announcement until the team's return from its reconnaissance mission - expected on Wednesday.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Caroline Wyatt
"Ordinary Afghans are keen for the force to arrive"
See also:

17 Dec 01 | South Asia
Q&A: Afghan peacekeeping force
15 Dec 01 | South Asia
Limits urged on Kabul force
14 Dec 01 | UK Politics
UK 'will lead Afghan force'
14 Dec 01 | Europe
EU pledges troops for Afghanistan
14 Dec 01 | UK
UK talks on Afghan troops
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