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US Defense Secretary Holds Talks With Afghan President - 2003-09-07

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has held talks with President Hamid Karzai in the Afghan capital, Kabul. The two discussed security issues and efforts to rebuild the war-ravaged country.

Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's visit to Afghanistan coincides with a wave of violence in the country, which is blamed on members of the ousted Taleban government and the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Addressing a joint news conference in Kabul after the meeting, Mr. Rumsfeld and Afghan President Karzai spoke of joint efforts to fight these forces. The Defense Secretary said that the cooperation between the Afghan national army and allied forces is producing positive results. "Coalition forces and troops as well as the new Afghan army have been launching major operations - one called Warrior Sweep, one called Mountain Viper - to track down terrorists and Taleban in this country, and they had good success, and we are most encouraged," he said.

A U.S. military spokesman told reporters Saturday that more than 120 Taleban other anti-government guerillas have been killed in Operation Mountain Viper that was launched 10 days ago in the Dai Chopan district of Zabul province.

There has been a resurgence of the Taleban and their local allies in recent months. Fighters of the hard-line Islamic movement are in almost daily conflict with American and local troops. Afghan authorities say they foiled another Taleban attack near the border with Pakistan, just hours before Secretary Rumsfeld arrived in Afghanistan.

Afghan officials allege members of the ousted Taleban government are using bases in border regions of Pakistan to launch attacks in Afghanistan. Pakistan denies the allegations. Speaking at the same news conference, President Karzai said Pakistani leadership has assured him that no such activity will be allowed.

"We are hoping that this cooperation would increase further between Afghanistan and Pakistan and also with the United States," he said. "We believe that a joint fight against terrorism is in entirely in the interest of all the countries and international peace. So we are hopeful that the stricter approach by Pakistan against the Taleban incursions into Afghanistan, against terrorism would produce the desired results."

The United States is leading a multi-national anti-terrorism force stationed in Afghanistan that ousted Taleban from power nearly two years ago. On his last trip to Kabul four months ago, Secretary Rumsfeld declared an end to major combat operations and said that international efforts will focus on political and economic reconstruction of that country.