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Afghanistan Approaches Next Significant Milestone

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2004 – Another milestone is on the horizon for the people of post-Taliban Afghanistan.

Hamid Karzai takes the oath of office Dec. 7 as Afghanistan's first democratically elected president. Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, among other dignitaries, are slated to attend the ceremony.

"Afghanistan is once again on the eve of another historic event: its first-ever presidential inauguration," said a spokesman for Combined Forces Command Afghanistan at a news conference today in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

He commended the Afghan people for their resolve in the face of intimidation and violence over the years to get to this point. The day would not have been possible without the courage, determination and resolve of the Afghan people, he said.

The Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army are taking the lead in forming a comprehensive security plan that will protect all major thoroughfares and venues throughout Kabul, the spokesman said. News reports have quoted Taliban sources saying that the Taliban would try to disrupt the ceremony.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force and coalition forces will provide support with additional quick-reaction forces both on the ground and in the air, the spokesman said. ISAF and coalition forces also stand ready to provide explosive ordnance disposal, medical and command-and-control assistance, he added.

He said every possible contingency has been planned for, and reactions to these scenarios have been thoroughly coordinated and rehearsed.

"Looking forward to Afghanistan's next significant event -- parliamentary elections in the spring -- coalition forces intend to capitalize on continued operational success throughout the winter months," the spokesman noted.

Also, he said, coalition winter operations will increase pressure on Taliban and al Qaeda remnants in Afghanistan, facilitate continued improvement in security conditions, and foster an environment conducive to continued reconstruction and development.

"Another positive indication of continued progress toward improving security in Afghanistan," he said, "is the discovery of weapons caches."

So far this month, coalition forces have discovered 19 weapons caches -- eight of them on Dec. 2, -- and seven of the 11 other caches turned in by Afghan citizens or Afghan police, the spokesman said.

One cache among the Dec. 2 discoveries, near Asadabad in Nangarhar province, contained 400 to 500 mortar rounds, 100 to 200 120 mm rockets and 20 to 30 artillery rounds. Another cache that day in two caves in Bamyan province contained 297 107 mm rockets, 480 75 mm recoilless rifle rounds, 932 82 mm mortar rounds, and other munitions of varying caliber and type, he said.

"We appreciate the continued assistance of the Afghan people as they help us create a more secure environment throughout the country," the spokesman added. "Their support is vital to the coalition's continuing efforts to create conditions of stability and security that will ensure Afghanistan is no longer a staging base for terrorist training and activities."

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