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Karzai Outlines Plan for Afghan National Army


Afghan President Hamid Karzai has presented a plan for a 70,000-man national army to replace Afghanistan's private militias and establish the authority of the central government.

A year after a U.N.-sponsored conference in Koenigswinter, Germany, hammered out a deal among Afghan groups for a post-Taleban government, another meeting is looking at how much needs to be done in Afghanistan.

President Karzai wants to strengthen the central government and carry out administrative, judicial, and financial reforms. But for that to happen, he needs to establish security and extend his authority beyond the capital, Kabul.

Mr. Karzai told the conference he plans to do that by building up the national army to replace the country's numerous militias. But that is expected to take time and the $350 million that it will probably cost to strengthen the army needs to be raised.

Mr. Karzai also wants the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan to expand beyond Kabul and into the rest of the country, most of which is under the control of regional warlords. But that has been ruled out by the force's mostly European members.

A separate U.S.-led force is also in Afghanistan, but its mission is to fight remnants of the Taleban and of the al-Qaida terrorist organization that once used the country as its main base.

The one-day conference in Koenigswinter was called to assess how far Afghanistan has come in a year's time and how much further it has to go to get back on its feet.

Afghanistan says it needs more money to rebuild. But the meeting is not expected to pledge new funds for the war-shattered country.

Germany called the conference to keep the spotlight on Afghanistan as the prospect of war looms over Iraq. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer says rebuilding Afghanistan is important for the success of the international coalition against terrorism.

An EU official, who monitors the situation in Afghanistan, says establishing security and extending the central government's authority are crucial to fulfilling billions of dollars in aid pledges.

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