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Turkish General Willing to Expand Security Forces Beyond Kabul - 2002-07-23

The commander of the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) in Afghanistan, Turkish General, Hilmi Akin Zorlu, said if the U.N. Security Council and international community call on ISAF, it will expand its operation beyond Kabul to other parts of Afghanistan.

U.N. General Secretary Kofi Annan and his special envoy to Afghanistan, Lakdar Brahimi, have both expressed concern about the security situation in Afghanistan. They have urged the expansion of the ISAF operation from Kabul to other parts of the country.

ISAF commander Major General, Hilmi Akin Zorlu said the unit's mandate is to provide security just in the capital and the surrounding areas. But he told VOA if the international community decides to expand the mission, ISAF will take the task.

"If the International community decides to do that, they should do that through the U.N. Security Council and it requires much more funding and much more troops for expanding the area of responsibilities of ISAF," he said

The Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai has also asked ISAF to help the transitional government in the investigation of the murder earlier this month of his deputy, Haji Abdul Qadir, who was gunned down outside his office by two men who escaped. No one has been charged in the killing. General Zorlu declined comment on the matter, but an ISAF spokesman last week said the international peacekeeping force will help collect evidence and interview witnesses to the crime and will also train local policemen as bodyguards for top government officials. General Zorlu and his 1,350 Turkish troops took over the command of the ISAF forces from Britain in mid-June and will lead the 17-nation force for six months. The general does not believe Turkey will extend its leadership of the security mission beyond that time.

"There are many reasons not to extend it. Not only are we providing troops but also there is the heavy burden of financing issues. Because as lead nation, we have been paying much more than the other nations. So our mandate is limited to six months. But, the mission of ISAF continues by other lead nations or organization. Because I see it is very necessary to establish the peace and security and institutions of Afghanistan," he said. The General said Turkey accepted the leadership of the Afghanistan security force, not just because of the close historic relations between the two Muslim nations, but also because Turkey has suffered from terrorist activities for more than 18 years. General Zorlu said Turkey wants to show the world community that it is in the fight against terrorism.

Turkey has a long history of participation in international peacekeeping forces around the world, beginning with the Korean War and including its recent involvement in Bosnia.

General Zorlu does not see the Turkish troop contingent, which is the largest in ISAF, facing any danger in Afghanistan. He said Turkish soldiers are welcomed by Afghans because they are fellow Muslims and the Afghan people consider them brothers and friends who are here to help them.