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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 16:26 GMT
Straw caution on more troops
British troops in Afghanistan
Afghans want the international troops to stay
A cautious response has been given by UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to another request for an expansion of the international security force in Afghanistan from interim leader Hamid Karzai.

Mr Straw was speaking after a meeting with Mr Karzai in Kabul, which took place hours after Afghanistan's transport minister was killed by a mob at the main airport.


This shows that, yes, there is a huge way to go in this country but, by God, let us celebrate what has been achieved in three months

Jack Straw
Mr Karzai has asked for more international troops to protect his country, saying the killing of Air Transport Minister Abdul Rahman could have been carried out by al-Qaeda terrorists still operating in Afghanistan.

Mr Straw's RAF Hercules landed on the military section of Kabul International Airport just a few hours after Dr Rahman was dragged from a plane on the civilian side by a group of what appeared to be pilgrims on the way to Hajj in Saudi Arabia.

Further commitment wanted

About 900 pilgrims, angry that they could not get to the festival, had gathered at the airport.

The incident came despite the presence of the 4,000-member UK-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul.

After the talks, Mr Karzai said he wanted London and Washington to commit more ISAF troops to prevent further incidents happening.

In response, Mr Straw said he recognised the merits of the request, but insisted that if the force was expanded it had to be in secure and safe conditions.

Mr Karzai said: "As we all know, we still have a prevalence of terrorism in Afghanistan, they can come in any form.

"That is what I kept repeating, when I was in the UK and Washington, I kept asking that my people say we need more of the security assistance force.

"The incident last night proves our point."

Progress made

Mr Straw said: "What we have to recognise is the huge relative progress that is being made in the country between the fall of Kabul in early November and the establishment in December of the interim authority.

"There is a degree of security and safety unknown to people for many years before.


We have to make sure if we are going to put troops elsewhere we do so in secure, safe conditions where everybody understands their role

Jack Straw
"This shows that, yes, there is a huge way to go in this country but, by God, let us celebrate what has been achieved in three months."

The international community wanted to see a fully national Afghan army and a national police service trained up as soon as possible, Mr Straw said.

There would be "intensive discussions" about what, where and how ISAF was expanded after Britain finished its lead nation role in April.

"I recognise the strong case Chairman Karzai makes for that (expansion) but we have to make sure if we are going to put troops elsewhere we do so in secure, safe conditions where everybody understands their role," Mr Straw said.

Earlier, the foreign secretary met Afghan Foreign Minister Dr Abdullah Abdullah, at a meeting in which they discussed the possibility of Turkey, the only Muslim member of Nato, taking over the lead of ISAF when Britain steps down.

See also:

15 Feb 02 | South Asia
Straw in Kabul for troops talks
31 Jan 02 | UK Politics
UK cool on extra Afghan troops
07 Jan 02 | South Asia
Blair urges support for Afghanistan
13 Feb 02 | South Asia
Football fever returns to Kabul
12 Jan 02 | South Asia
Afghans rethink Kabul troops promise
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