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US Commitment to Afghanistan Unaltered, Special Envoy Says


President Bush's Special Envoy on Afghanistan said he does not expect brewing political events in Iraq and Pakistan to alter anti-terrorist efforts in South Asia.

Speaking to reporters on the steps of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Zalmay Khalilzad said he does not believe the victories by Islamic political parties in Pakistan will affect U.S. anti-terrorism efforts. "We expect that cooperation against the terrorists will continue. I understand that that is a federal responsibility in Pakistan. President Musharraf has assured us that what has happened in Pakistan will not affect that cooperation," he said.

Campaigning on an anti-Western platform, a coalition of Islamic parties made a surprisingly strong showing in recent parliamentary elections in which no single party gained a sufficient majority to form a government on its own.

They also took control of the assemblies of the two provinces that border Afghanistan. The Islamic coalition has called for the ouster of U.S. anti-terrorist forces operating in Pakistan's border areas.

Mr. Khalilzad said he hopes that the United States will not find it necessary to use force against Iraq. But if it does, he says, the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan will not diminish as a byproduct of a U.S.-Iraq war. "We know what problems in Afghanistan can cause, not only for the Afghan people although fixing Afghanistan is first and foremost their responsibility - but we also know what it means for the region and for the world. Afghanistan's success is our success. Afghanistan's failure is the failure of the international community. And we will not change, we will not tire, we will persevere. We will be here for as long as we are needed," he said.

Mr. Khalilzad met with regional leaders in northern Afghanistan Sunday to urge them to cooperate with the government of interim President Hamid Karzai. "We encourage all Afghan leaders in various regions of Afghanistan to cooperate with these efforts, to cooperate with the Karzai government. And for us, that relationship, that cooperation is a measure of evaluation of regional and local leaders," he said.

The Karzai government has little power outside Kabul. Northern Afghanistan, under the rule of General Abdul Rashid Dostum, continues to be the scene of factional fighting. The United States suspended new aid projects in that region in June due to the instability, and the moratorium remains in effect.

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