Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage begins a trip to Central Asia this week on a mission aimed at underscoring support for the government in Kabul as it prepares for elections next year. In addition to Afghanistan, he is also expected to visit Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
The Armitage mission to Afghanistan comes amid an upswing of attacks against troops of the U.S.-led coalition. Mr. Armitage told a House subcommittee he will discuss the security situation with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, as well as the more than $1 billion in additional aid the Bush administration is seeking for the Kabul government as it prepares for elections:
"Certainly in Afghanistan, this acceleration of success is all aimed towards the June elections," he said. "No matter who wins, we want the government of Afghanistan to feel that we were with them, that we led the international community into the betterment of that society."
Mr. Armitage said he will continue a U.S. dialogue with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf over the problem of Islamic militants crossing into Afghanistan from Pakistan. He told the House panel he believes Mr. Musharraf is sincere in wanting to help stop the traffic, but that the same cannot be said for all elements of Pakistan's security community.