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Coalition Operations in Afghanistan to Shift, Says Rumsfeld

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, says coalition military efforts in Afghanistan will shift from major combat operations to efforts to improve security. The U.S. defense secretary met in Kabul with Afghanistan's interim president, Hamid Karzai, on Thursday.

Secretary Rumsfeld says coalition military activities in Afghanistan will enter a new phase, shifting away from major combat operations, to stability operations designed to improve security and help reconstruction efforts in the war-devastated nation.

"We are at a point where we clearly have moved from major combat activity to a period of stability and stabilization and reconstruction activities," he said. "The bulk of this country is permissive, it is secure, it is clear that is the case by virtue of the fact that we see people returning to their country from all across the globe, in large numbers."

Secretary Rumsfeld says pockets of resistance still remain in Afghanistan and coalition combat operations will continue to target the remnants of the Taleban and al-Qaida. There are currently about nine thousand U.S. troops in Afghanistan. They make up the bulk of coalition forces in the country.

The defense secretary says a key component of future coalition military activities in Afghanistan will be so-called Provincial Reconstruction Teams that will focus on reconstruction and development projects.

"Our hope is that by taking into the important parts of this country, teams of people that can contribute to security - but even more importantly, contribute to the lives of people in those provinces, by way of hospitals or schools or medicines or roads, all the things that might be needed - we hope that these PRT's can play a constructive and useful role."

Mr. Rumsfeld met with Afghanistan's interim president Hamid Karzai and pledged continued U.S. support to train Afghanistan's new national army. Mr. Karzai says Afghan government security efforts are improving, especially operations monitoring Afghanistan's porous border with Pakistan.