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 Wednesday, 15 January, 2003, 17:17 GMT
US offers Afghans continued support
Paul Wolfowitz (centre)  in Kabul
Mr Wolfowitz assured Kabul of continued support

US Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz has assured Afghan President Hamid Karzai of Washington's continued support.

Afghan army troops
Afghan troops are being trained by US soldiers
Mr Wolfowitz has been visiting Afghanistan to discuss security issues with Mr Karzai and other Afghan officials.

He said the most important development was the progress being made in training an Afghan national army.

The next step was to put greater military emphasis on development work.

Aid focus

Mr Wolfowitz spent the day meeting top officials in the capital, Kabul, and watching a live-fire exercise at a training centre for new recruits to the fledgling Afghan national army.

US troops in Afghanistan
US forces are active in eastern Afghanistan
Following a meeting with President Karzai, he said the formation of the new army was the most important development for improving security.

He cited the deployment of two battalions of recently-trained Afghan soldiers to the eastern town of Urgun, near the Pakistani border, as a sign of the progress being made.

A second step in building greater security outside Kabul was the American military decision to put greater emphasis on reconstruction work in Afghanistan.

Military teams are being set up to co-ordinate regional aid work.

One has already begun work in eastern Afghanistan, one of the most unstable areas of the country, and Mr Wolfowitz said two more are to be deployed.

Continued support

One would be in Bamiyan where the Taleban destroyed the great Buddhas, and the other in the northern town of Kunduz.

Aid agencies have expressed concern that these teams could blur the line between military and civilian aid workers.

Mr Wolfowitz was also due to visit American troops at Bagram, north of the capital, the main base for US forces in Afghanistan.

There have been concerns here in Kabul that American preoccupations with Iraq could detract from international support for the country.

But Afghan Foreign Minister Dr Abdullah told journalists that the first thing Mr Wolfowitz had said to President Karzai was that American support for his country would continue.


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