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Powell: US Will Remain Committed to Afghanistan - 2002-01-17

Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is on a five nation trip to Asia, has assured leaders in Afghanistan that the United States will remain committed to their war-shattered country for a long time.

Secretary Powell made a stop in Afghanistan on Thursday before traveling on to New Delhi. In the Afghan capital, he held talks with interim leader Hamid Karzai to find out what his government needs to rebuild the country.

Mr. Powell is the first secretary of state to visit Afghanistan in more than 25 years.

At a joint news conference with Mr. Karzai, Secretary Powell pledged Washington will stand by Afghanistan for a long time and plans to make a significant contribution to rebuilding the country. He promised to announce the amount of U.S. aid at a donors' conference in Tokyo next week.

The World Bank estimates Afghanistan's reconstruction will cost $15 billion over 10 years.

Mr. Powell has said that U.S. led anti-terrorism campaign will continue until the remnants of al-Qaida and the Taleban are removed from Afghanistan. This, he said, will ensure they do not threaten the country's stability in future.

"We don't want to leave any contamination behind. And I think, that is in the interests of the Afghan people and certainly the mission we came here to perform," he said.

Mr. Powell has said the presence of the United States and multinational security forces in Afghanistan will also help improve the security situation.

"But ultimate security will come from the creation of an Afghan national army committed to the new Afghanistan. And the creation of police units that are also committed to the new Afghanistan. That is the area that we have to really focus our attention. Training Afghans to take care of themselves," he said.

For his part, Afghan leader Karazi promised that his interim administration will help create a democracy in the country and will make any aid money to rebuild Afghanistan is not misused.

"One area where we will be extremely tough and rather oppressive will be against corruption. We will be very very tough there. There is no way that we can allow that. Because we know that if we allow that the country will not do well," he said.

Before leaving Kabul, Secretary Powell also announced the upgrade of the U.S. mission there to a full embassy. He presented awards to two local staff who have guarded the compound during years of civil war in Afghanistan.

Secretary Powell is on a five-nation trip. A major objective of his mission is to try to ease tensions between India and Pakistan. He met President General Musharraf to discuss steps the Pakistani leader has taken to de-escalate the standoff. During his stop in Secretary Powell flew to India later in Thursday for talks with Indian leaders.