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Wednesday, 28 November, 2001, 08:13 GMT
Regional caution over US deployment
US marine prepares for action
"Foreigners are not liked in Afghanistan," says a Russian paper

The deployment of US Marines in significant numbers on the ground in southern Afghanistan has sparked some openly hostile comment from neighbouring Iran, while others take a "wait and see" attitude.

Tehran has been quick to condemn the development.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the presence of foreign troops was "in contravention of Afghanistan's territorial integrity and independence".

It would "further complicate the situation and disrupt the process of the return of peace and calm to Afghanistan," Mr Asefi said.

Influence on Bonn conference

Iranian radio reinforced the point in a commentary which suggested the US was trying to influence the Bonn conference on the future of Afghanistan by the flexing of its military muscle.

America has set out... to present itself as the victor of the Afghan war for propaganda purposes

Iranian radio
"Political observers see the deployment of military forces and American artillery in the environs of Kandahar as falling within the framework of that country's long-term aim to have a military presence in Afghanistan," the radio said.

It quoted the same political observers as stating that "America has set out - by supposedly becoming involved in the liberation of Kandahar - to present itself as the victor of the Afghan war for propaganda purposes, and to force the delegations attending the Bonn conference to support imposed proposals for the future of Afghanistan's political destiny."

'Afghan allergy'

Other views from around the region are not so hostile, but virtually all note that the war has entered a new and potentially far more dangerous phase.

"The landing of a strong US Marine contingent in Kandahar represents a qualitative change in the US military presence in Afghanistan," Pakistan's The Nation daily says in an editorial.

Northern Alliance troops view US bombing
The Northern Alliance has benefited from US bombing
"It is now possible, for the first time, to speak of a substantial US military presence in Afghanistan, capable of operating independently rather than merely advising the Northern Alliance," it says.

The paper notes that it "remains to be seen what effects this has on the political situation in Afghanistan, especially if this force builds up, or begins to dig in for a longer stay."

"The Afghan allergy to foreign invaders has so far been kept in check by the care the US has taken not to commit its own forces in large numbers. After having succeeded so much without committing its own troops, hopefully the US is not making this particular mistake.

"Not only Afghans, but regional neighbours like China and Iran, will be disturbed at this development," the paper observes.

'Creeping mandate'

The Saudi newspaper Jeddah Arab News takes up the theme, warning against the long-term presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan.

"Far from being an endgame, the arrival of regular US troops in the theatre could be the start of a whole new conflict," the paper says.

The US and British need to start giving clear assurances that their physical presence on Afghan soil is extremely short term

Jeddah Arab news
"The Americans and British must take care that their presence in the country really is only concerned with the capture and rolling up of the al-Qaeda network and the overthrow of their Taleban hosts. There can be no question of a creeping mandate," it warns.

The paper notes that despite the many differences between the various parties in Afghanistan "the one thing that would seem sure to unite them would be any suggestion that the final settlement will need to be overseen by foreign troops."

"Despite the operational advantage of keeping their aims ambiguous, the US and British need to start giving clear assurances that their physical presence on Afghan soil is extremely short term. If they fail in this, the consequences could be a whole new conflict," it says.

How will Afghans react?

According to the Russian Government newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta "It is now that the real war is to begin in Afghanistan."

The mission of the US forces "is to turn the local airfield into a gate through which American, British, French, and other troops will pass in an endless stream."

"But it is hard to say how the Afghans will regard these forces. Foreigners are not liked in Afghanistan, even if they have come to help," the paper says.

It contrasts the US military build-up near Kandahar with the arrival of Russian military transport planes to Kabul.

"Yesterday Russia also began a large-scale ground operation in Afghanistan. Only unlike the American one, this is a peaceful operation," it says.

"Twelve military transport aircraft landed near Kabul bringing in staffers of the Emergencies Ministry, diplomats, and construction workers who will restore the Russian Embassy."

The paper notes that were also Russian special forces on board but it is quick to point out that "their mission is to protect Russian civilian officials".

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

27 Nov 01 | South Asia
US marines launch first strike
27 Nov 01 | South Asia
Forward base for US marines
05 Nov 01 | Americas
US special forces 'botched mission'
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