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US Secretary of State Rice Calls for Continued Fighting Against the Taleban


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Afghanistan must become a stable democracy that fights terrorism. Suicide bombers have killed a number of people in Afghanistan in recent days, including a provincial governor. The attacks came as NATO and Afghan forces stepped up anti-Taleban operations in the south.

A suicide bomber killed at least six people at the funeral of provincial governor Abdul Hakim Taniwal (Monday). Several cabinet ministers and members of Afghanistan's parliament were among the large group of people at the funeral. Five police officers and a12-year-old boy died. Taniwal was one of three people killed in a previous suicide attack. Taleban insurgents have claimed responsibility for both bombings.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the United States and its allies left Afghanistan without political, economic and security support following its conflict with the former Soviet Union.

She says Afghanistan turned into a failed state that harbored and supported al-Qaida. "If we should have learned anything, it is that if you allow that kind of vacuum, if you allow a failed state in that strategic of a location, you're going to pay for it."

The Taleban has fought an increasingly bloody guerrilla war against the elected Afghan government and allied forces during the past year.

The U.S.-led coalition is continuing its offensive against Taleban fighters and al-Qaida in Kunar province bordering Pakistan. Soldiers fired rockets and patrolled the mountains where Taleban militants are believed to be hiding.

U.S. Army Lieutenant Tim Lo says soldiers found weapons in caves. "We found ammunition. We found I.E.D. materials (Improvised Explosive Devices) -- things they can use against us."

The U.S. military says a suicide-bombing cell is operating in the Afghan capital Kabul. Colonel Tom Collins says it remains a threat, "We know that there is a cell here in Kabul, at least one, whose primary mission is to seek out coalition or international troops and hit them with suicide bombs."

NATO troops began an offensive last Saturday to wipe out Taleban strongholds in southeastern Kandahar province. More than 550 Taleban fighters have been killed. Canada has called on NATO member nations to contribute more troops.