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Saturday, 12 January, 2002, 16:07 GMT
Afghans rethink Kabul troops promise
Northern Alliance troops with tank
More troops will leave Kabul next week
The defence ministry in Afghanistan says it will maintain about 1,500 troops in Kabul, despite an agreement with the international peace-keeeping force to remove all soldiers from the city.

Thousands of soldiers have left the Afghan capital, under the agreement that from the end of Saturday, Kabul would be solely in the hands of civilian police and international troops.
Injured policeman
This Kabul policeman is a victim of rising crime

Most of the 10,000 fighters who entered Kabul after the defeat of the Taleban in November will be redeployed to military bases in provinces to the south, west and east of the city, defence spokesman Regeftani said.

He said only ministers and about 10 senior commanders would be allowed armed body guards, all of whom would have to carry permits.

Other commanders entering Kabul would have to leave weapons at the entrance to the city.

The troops, who have been in Kabul since the fall of the Taleban in November, almost all come from the Jamiat-i-Islami faction of the Northern Alliance.

Security is officially in the hands of a civilian police force aided by troops of the International Security Action Force, led by the UK.

But military commanders, mainly from the Jamiat-i-Islami faction, have taken over houses as makeshift barracks all over Kabul.

Spokesman Regeftani said the men have now been evicted from 70% of these houses.

Crime wave

The interim Interior Minister Younis Qanooni has admitted that what he called "irresponsible armed men and posts in the city" had undermined security - a reference to an upsurge in robberies and violent crime.

Soon, he promised, only authorised people would be allowed to carry weapons. But many residents are also wary of the police force.

There are some professional police officers, but most are former soldiers who have had minimal training.

Mr Qanooni has said the administration is planning to form a new national police force using officers recruited from across Afghanistan.

American concerns

US Secretary of State Colin Powell is to visit Afghanistan next week.

ISAF troops in Kabul
Multinational troops will help police Kabul

He will be the most senior American politician to visit the country since Washington began its military campaign against the Taleban and Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda movement last October.

His visit comes as US officials have expressed great concern about the whereabouts of three Taleban ministers who surrendered to the authorities in the province of Kandahar on Tuesday

America believes the former ministers could hold vital clues as to the whereabouts Bin Laden and Taleban leader Mullah Omar.

The Kandahar authorities allowed the men to go free after they had given themselves up.

On Saturday the interim government in Kabul distanced itself from the men's release.

"It has happened without our permission," Mr Qanooni told AFP.

Mr Qanooni insisted the men should face trial.

The former ministers "do not come under the amnesty for ordinary Taleban," he said.

The BBC's Ishbel Matheson
"Ordinary people in Kabul are pleased to see the international force here"
See also:

20 Dec 01 | South Asia
Optimism over peacekeeping force
20 Dec 01 | South Asia
Green light for Afghan force
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