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Rumsfeld Pledges Assistance in Formation of Afghan National Army - 2002-04-27

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has met with senior Afghan officials during a one-day visit to Afghanistan to discuss the formation of a new Afghan army. The defense secretary also visited international troops at the Bagram base north of the Afghan capital to thank them for their help in the fight against terrorism.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says his discussions Saturday centered on forming a border patrol, police force and national army for Afghanistan.

"The development of a national army is not an easy task," he said. "We are very pleased that coalition countries, including the French, have indicated their willingness to participate in this process and I know that the U.S. forces and the coalition forces look forward to working with you [Afghan leaders] to achieve that goal."

The U.S. defense secretary told reporters the Bush administration is seeking funding from Congress for the new Afghan army and expects results by next month. The head of the Afghan interim government, Hamid Karzai, said a new national army will help stabilize Afghanistan.

"Another very significant step has been taken by the United States of America," he said. "When I was in the Washington, President Bush told me we will train your army. And that promise has been turned into truth."

The Afghan leader said he has dropped an earlier request for international security forces to deploy to areas outside Kabul saying, with the formation a new Afghan army, such an expansion is not needed. Secretary Rumsfeld declined to comment on news reports that U.S. forces are in neighboring Pakistan pursuing al-Qaida and Taleban fighters, but he told reporters the U.S. government intends to eliminate them.

"Our goal has been to kill or capture all of them and weve been hard at it," the secretary said. "And we intend to stay at it until its done."

Mr. Rumsfeld said he visited U.S. and coalition forces earlier in the day to thank them for their efforts.

The U.S. defense secretary earlier visited Kyrgystan, which is supporting the U.S. governments campaign against international terrorism. He is to visit Moscow on Monday.