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U.S. 'Stepping Up to the Plate' to Help Afghanistan

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 22, 2002 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today vehemently denied America isn't doing enough to help stabilize the Afghan government.

In a Pentagon press briefing today, Rumsfeld rejected suggestions that the United States should single-handedly expand the International Security Assistance Force outside the Afghan capital of Kabul. He noted that the British, who currently lead the force, and the Turks, who will assume that role soon, have resisted calls to expand the force to other parts of Afghanistan.

"If someone came up and said, 'We'd like to expand it, and here are the forces, and here's the money to pay those forces, and we think they belong in cities A, B, C, in Afghanistan,' and the government of Afghanistan decided they wanted to do that, it would happen in a flash," Rumsfeld said.

The secretary then let loose with a litany of U.S. efforts to help Afghanistan. "We have spent billions and billions of dollars. We have put American lives at risk," he said. "We have fashioned a coalition to help . We have liberated the Afghan people from a repressive Afghan regime, and we have moved the al Qaeda out of their terrorist training camps."

Rumsfeld said the U.S. military provides logistics, intelligence support and a quick reaction force to the current security force commanded by the British, and he expects to work out a similar agreement when the Turks take over.

He continued by noting that the United States is preparing to train the Afghan national army and was co-host of a conference to raise money to equip and pay for that army.

"It seems to me that any characterization that the United States has not stepped up to the plate with regards to Afghanistan is a misunderstanding of what has happened and what is currently happening," Rumsfeld said. "We are not the only country on the face of the Earth. There are other nations that have resources (and) that have troops."

In other news concerning Afghanistan, Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard Myers again expressed their condolences to the families of the four Canadian soldiers killed and the eight injured by an American bomb in a friendly-fire accident in Afghanistan.

Rumsfeld said the Canadians will be privy to all information U.S. investigators learn about the April 18 incident.

"My understanding is that the Canadian armed services will have observers present in every aspect of (the investigation)," Rumsfeld said.

The secretary said the formal investigation conducted by U.S. Central Command officials into the incident would begin shortly and be concluded in "some 30 to 60 days." It will "likely include findings of facts, opinions and very likely will include recommendations with respect to the cause of the incident," he said.

Canadian armed forces officials will conduct a "parallel, but separate, investigation of their own," he added.

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