In Afghanistan, interim government chief Hamid Karzai has repeatedly pleaded with the international community for peacekeepers to be deployed outside the capital. But President Bush's Special Envoy for Afghanistan says there is no international sentiment for such a move.
In a meeting with reporters in front of the heavily guarded U.S. embassy in Kabul, Zalmay Khalilzad said the issue of deploying peacekeepers outside of Kabul is not on the table.
"At this stage, the international community is not prepared to send more forces to various parts of Afghanistan." he said. "And there is an issue whether the forces being sent to other places is the best answer to the various challenges. We are not ruling it out entirely, but there are other ways."
The issue is critical as Afghanistan tries to build new political institutions.
Interim-government Chairman Karzai has begged for peacekeepers to be deployed outside Kabul. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson is among those international figures who have added their voices to that call.
Several thousand international troops, banded together in the International Security Assistance Force, keep the lid on potential violence in Kabul. The United States gives logistical and intelligence support to the force, but does not contribute troops to it.
The situation in the countryside is far from secure. Rival warlords compete for power, often with their own private armies. Inter-ethnic violence has erupted in the north.
A Loya Jirga, or grand council, is to be held in June to choose a new interim administration. The council was mandated under the terms of an agreement reached in Bonn. Representatives are to be chosen from districts across the country to come to the council. There is fear that some political factions may use intimidation to get their own representatives chosen for the Loya Jirga.
U.S. Envoy Khalilzad said the international force's mandated time in Kabul, which was to have expired in June, will be extended, maybe until December.
Mr. Khalilzad said the United States will begin helping train a new Afghan army May 1, and that training of a national police force, conducted by Germany, is underway. But analysts say those forces will not be ready to take on anyone, including well-entrenched warlord militias, for many months.
Under questioning from reporters, Mr. Khalilzad repeatedly said there are "other ways" to deal with the security issue than expanding International Force outside Kabul.
"With regard to warlordism, we are using our influence and presence of our forces and assets in those areas where these people are to discourage them from going to war with each other, to discourage a return to warlordism," he said. "And we will move as expeditiously as possible to move on the training of the army, and, with our German friends, the training of the police."
Mr. Khalilzad said the United States' primary mission is to rid Afghanistan of the Taleban and al-Qaida remnants. He said there are still "significant pockets" of al-Qaida and Taleban fighters in southern Afghanistan in the regions of Khost, Paktia, and Paktika provinces.