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No Plans to Extend International Peacekeeping Force Beyond Kabul - 2002-07-24

The international community remains reluctant to expand peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan beyond the capital of Kabul. The Swedish armed forces chief discussed the matter Wednesday on a visit to Afghanistan. Sweden has been contributing troops to the peacekeeping force and carrying out humanitarian operations.

Swedish military chief Johan Ivar Hederstedt said there are no plans to expand the mission of the International Security Assistance Force, called ISAF.

About 4,800 soldiers from 18 countries are participating in ISAF, whose mandate is limited to providing security in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

General Hederstedt said that as Afghanistan becomes more peaceful, ISAF operations could grow. "I'm convinced that if Afghanistan will go into a total peace, of course the international community must help the people all over Afghanistan, not only in Kabul," he said.

General Hederstedt spoke after meeting Turkish ISAF commander, Major General Hilmi Akin Zorlu. He also visited the Swedish army's ISAF platoon, which is carrying out humanitarian relief work.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has made frequent appeals for international peacekeepers to move beyond Kabul. Mr. Karzai wants foreign assistance to help stabilize Afghanistan after decades of civil war.

The United Nations representative in Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, also has appealed for ISAF expansion. But the U.N. Security Council has not supported the idea.

A Western diplomat told reporters in Kabul this week that the United States is not opposed to ISAF's eventual expansion. However, the official said there are many unanswered questions, including which countries would pay the costs and send the troops.