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US Diplomats Urge Restraint, Broad Coalition in Afghanistan - 2001-11-13

The U.S. State Department is calling on soldiers of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan to show discipline and restraint following their entry into Kabul. Meanwhile, U.S. diplomats, are stepping up efforts to help set up a broad-based government in Kabul to replace the Taleban.

Although U.S. officials had hoped the Northern Alliance would stop short of entering Kabul, the State Department welcomed the Taleban's retreat because it ends years of repression of the city's residents.

However, department spokesman Richard Boucher also voiced U.S. concern about reports of summary executions and looting by Northern Alliance troops, saying such actions cannot help efforts to form a new, broad-based Afghan government. "We've seen those reports, we've heard those reports, we're not able to confirm any particular ones," Mr. Boucher said. "But we've made our view very clear that any administration, any party in Afghanistan, needs to show respect for human life and needs to conduct themselves in such a way that all Afghans will want to join and participate."

Officials here say the newly-named U.S. special envoy to the Afghan opposition, James Dobbins, is in Rome to meet exiled King Zahir Shah and Afghan factional leaders to try to help build a broad coalition.

Mr. Dobbins will continue the effort later in the week in Islamabad, focusing on leaders of the Pashtuns - the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, from which the Taleban has drawn much of its membership and support.

U.S. diplomats are also discussing the possible deployment of an international force to help prevent political chaos in Afghanistan.

Spokesman Boucher said such a force could be a conventional deployment of blue-helmeted U.N. peacekeepers, or a so-called "coalition of the willing" led by soldiers from predominately-Muslim countries such as Turkey, Bangladesh and Indonesia who have already offered forces for such an operation.

Mr. Boucher said the administration has made no final decision on such an approach, although Secretary of State Colin Powell, at U.N. talks on the issue Monday, excluded United States participation in an Afghan force and said it would be better to have Muslim countries provide the troops rather than the major powers.

The spokesman also dismissed suggestions the United States might make an early move to re-establish an embassy in Kabul following the Taleban's departure. There has been no functioning U.S. embassy there since 1979 and Mr. Boucher said he is not aware of any plans to reopen the mission and that officials would watch "how the situation evolves."