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Factional Fighting in Afghanistan's West Continues for 3rd Day - 2002-12-02

Factional fighting in western Afghanistan continued for a third day, Monday. The fighting took place as Afghanistan's president met with international donors in Germany, to discuss progress Afghanistan has made in the year since Taleban rule ended.

Civilians are reported fleeing the area around the Shindand Air Base, south of the western city, Herat, where heavy fighting has been taking place for three days.

Fighting broke out south of the Shindand base, Saturday, between forces loyal to Herat Governor Ismail Khan and a regional commander, Ammanullah Khan.

Ismail Khan's primarily-Tajik forces and Ammanullah Khan's primarilly-Pashtun fighters have fought a series of battles in the area, since the collapse of Taleban rule, last year.

Sunday, U.S. B-52 bombers dropped seven bombs in the area, after American special forces troops came under fire. Colonel Roger King, a spokesman for the coalition forces at Bagram Air Base, said there were no U.S. casualties in the incident and that it is unclear which side involved in the fighting fired on the U.S. troops. The coalition spokesman says American forces have carefully avoided taking sides in Afghanistan's factional conflicts.

"If the coalition forces interpose themselves between the two factions, without regard as to how the Afghans, themselves, would have handled the situation, then we will always be looking for someone else's solution to the problems of Afghanistan, which means someone will always have to be here to solve the problems," Colonel King said.

The clashes near Herat coincide with a major donor conference on Afghanistan, near Bonn, Germany, where, one year ago, a United Nations conference appointed Hamid Karzai to lead Afghanistan until elections can be held. Participants at the donor conference will review progress made, over the past year, in rebuilding Afghanistan's shattered infrastructure and economy.

Manoel de Almeida e Silva, a senior spokesman for the United Nations in Kabul, said much has been accomplished over the past year, but much more needs to be done. He said the international community needs to pledge more money to help Afghanistan.

"The level of disbursement; the speed of disbursement for the Afghan operation, as compared to other post-conflict situations, has been quite good. The problem is that the level of pledges are too low for the needs. Of course, the close to $2 billion coming from the international community, through multilateral arrangements this year is most welcome. But that is not enough. The $5 billion pledged in Tokyo is obviously not enough. It is good. It is necessary. But, we need much more than that," he said.

The continuing lack of security in many parts of Afghanistan is a major concern of donors. Efforts are underway to help train and mobilize a new national army and police force for Afghanistan. However, the job will not be completed for at least several years. Just before he left for the donor conference in Germany, President Karzai sent a team of negotiators to western Afghanistan to try to mediate a settlement to the fighting around the Shindand base. So far, the central government's efforts to broker peace in the area seem to have had little effect.