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Rumsfeld Says Troop Reduction in Afghanistan Will Not Affect Hunt for Bin Laden

  • Benjamin Sand

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said a planned reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan would not weaken the country's security. Mr. Rumsfeld made his comments during a joint press conference in Kabul with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed suggestions that the U.S. troop reduction would affect the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other terrorists.

"We will continue to focus on rooting out the Taleban and al-Qaida that still exist in causing difficulties for your country," he said.

His comments on Wednesday came a day after the Pentagon announced plans to pull 2,500 U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

U.S. troop strength there is currently around 19,000, focused primarily on fighting Taleban insurgents in the country's southern provinces.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly sought assurances from Washington that the United States would maintain a strong military presence in the region.

Wednesday, he told reporters the limited U.S. pullout would not weaken Afghanistan's security.

"We are assured of continued United States support, so it won't impact the situation on the ground," he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld had spent the morning in neighboring Pakistan, where he briefly surveyed the damage from October's devastating earthquake.

The U.S. military has taken a leading role in delivering relief supplies to the remote quake zone.

More than 1,000 U.S. military personnel, many drawn from Afghanistan, are staffing emergency programs for the quake survivors.

Mr. Rumsfeld met with several groups of U.S. soldiers to thank them for their service.

Vice President Dick Cheney was in Pakistan just a day earlier. He also emphasized America's commitment to the recovery effort.

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