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Commander says Multinational Force Should Stay in Kabul - 2003-02-06

The commander of the multinational force in Afghanistan says the peacekeepers must stay in Kabul for two or three more years to ensure security in the city.

Turkish Major General Hilmi Akim Zorlu leads the International Security Assistance Force in and around the Afghan capital. At a news conference Thursday, General Zorlu said the peacekeepers should remain in the country, until the Afghan national army and police forces are well established.

The general says that, if the international force does not stay in Kabul for at least two or three years, it may "create some chaos" in Kabul, and put the Afghan government in a difficult position.

He says that despite sporadic bombings and rocket attacks in recent months, life is returning to normal in the Afghan capital, and it has become a safer place both to live and work.

General Zorlu hands over control of the force to a joint German and Dutch command on Monday.

There are about 4,000 soldiers from 22 nations helping to maintain security in the Afghan capital. The United Nations created the force more than a year ago, after a U.S.-led coalition ousted the former Taleban government and installed an interim administration. The peacekeeping force's mandate expires in December this year.

Senior Afghan officials have said they would like to see the mandate extended beyond that.

At least 14 peacekeepers have died on duty in Afghanistan. General Zorlu says the multinational force is helping create a stable environment, so the war-shattered country can rebuild.

But he says rebuilding all of Afghanistan will take many years and a great deal of patience on the part of Afghans and the international community.