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Rumsfeld Visits Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan, Dec. 4, 2003 – The British Provincial Reconstruction Team here is helping to bring the influence of the provisional national government beyond the national capital of Kabul, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today during a visit.

"It is a way of having the efforts of the transitional government and the Karzai administration felt and reflected outside of the capital city, and that's a good thing," he said.

The secretary met with PRT commander Col. Richard "Dickie" Davis, who reported on his team's progress in its five-province area of responsibility. Rumsfeld also met with Governor Habibullah of the Balkh province, and with the top generals of two warring factions in the northern Afghanistan region, Abdul Rashid Dostum and Ustad Mohammad Atta, to discuss their progress in disarmament and demobilization.

Noting that each area of Afghanistan has characteristics that set it apart from the others, Rumsfeld said no template exists for how any given PRT should operate. He praised the work of Davis' team members and their knowledge of the situation in their region.

"Colonel Davis and his team have done an outstanding job," he said. "There's no question but they have made a very constructive contribution."

Davis' team was created in June, and succeeded a series of U.S. civil affairs teams. It consists of about 100 uniformed troops, mostly from the 2nd Royal Gurkha Regiment British soldiers from Nepal. Six Danish military personnel arrived recently, and officials said they probably will be used as a military observation team, or MOT, in Samangan province. It also covers the northern Afghan provinces of Balkh, Jawzjan, Sari-Pol and Faryab.

The PRT also has 10 civilian members, representing British and American government agencies, plus 40 Afghan employees and contractors. The team's mission is to help the interim government establish effective control over the country. The teams operate in environments where nongovernmental organizations won't.

Five MOTs patrol the vast and rugged area, supplemented by other patrols that go out into even more remote areas, officials said. Working closely with the Afghan interior ministry and the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan, the PRT has worked to restore rule of law in the region, to get weapons off the streets and generally to help the area get back on its feet after two decades of conflict.

Progress in the region has been helped, officials said, by the country's interior minister replacing faction- affiliated police officials with competent professionals who have no factional links. Also, with the deployment of 300 Afghan National Police in October, most of the important checkpoints in the area previously operated by factional police have been taken over by the ANP. This, officials said, has brought "a remarkable change in the mood of the people."

During his visit, Rumsfeld said that despite sporadic activity in southern Afghanistan, he doesn't fear a comeback by the Taliban. "It is no great surprise that those who have been defeated and removed would like to come back," he said. "That's always been the case, and they'll not have that opportunity." The secretary pointed out that if Taliban members try to "assemble in anything more than ones and twos," they'll be killed or captured.

He also commented favorably on his meeting with Dostum and Atta. "Each of them has initiated (the disarmament and demobilization) process. It's under way, and that is a very good thing," he said. "At what pace it will proceed I guess remains to be seen. But we're pleased that they have agreed to do so, and we're pleased that they have initiated it, and we'll be attentive and encouraging as we go along to see it toward completion."

After his PRT visit, Rumsfeld flew to Kabul for meetings with Afghanistan's president and defense minister.

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