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Feith to Consult With Allies in War on Terror

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23, 2002 – U.S. defense officials will discuss options for the International Security Assistance Force with Afghan leaders as part of a trip to the region starting Sept. 24.

The group, led by Defense Undersecretary Douglas Feith, will also participate in the first U.S.-Pakistan Defense Consultative Group meeting since 1997. The group will also visit Romania and Italy.

In Afghanistan, the group will meet with the defense minister, the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative and the Turkish leaders of the International Security Assistance Force as well as U.S. commanders.

"We'll be talking about Afghan army training, the security situation in Afghanistan and the issues of building our relations with the other countries in the area," a senior defense official said.

The United States is heavily involved in all aspects of security in Afghanistan, the official said. One aspect is the role of the International Security Assistance Force, currently commanded by Turkey.

The mandate for the force expires in December, and no arrangements have yet been made for a successor to Turkey as lead nation, the official noted. While news reports have indicated that Germany would take over the lead role, the official said that was just one of many options.

"There are a number of ideas that we are considering about what to do with ISAF and how to increase security both in Kabul and other cities -- possibly using ISAF as a vehicle or possibly using other vehicles for enhancing security," he said.

Who takes the lead in December is undecided, as are proposals to extend the security force's mission to other parts of Afghanistan. "There are not too many countries in a position to step in by December with a unit that is trained and ready to deploy," the official said. "So it's not that there are scores of countries standing in line waiting to do this."

"One of the long list of things we're thinking about is the role of NATO," the official said. "There have been various suggestions for NATO to play different kinds of roles -- possibly to take on the ISAF responsibility in various ways." These include NATO providing possible logistics support or force generation services.

The official said the issue "has a lot of moving parts."

In Pakistan, the group will review U.S.-Pakistani cooperation in Operation Enduring Freedom, go over defense sales issues and discuss counterterrorism cooperation.

In Romania, the group will meet with national leaders. They will discuss the country's NATO candidacy, and the U.S. delegation will thank Romania for its help in the war on terrorism and for supporting the U.S. position on the International Criminal Court.

In Italy, the U.S. group will meet with senior defense and foreign affairs officials on various subjects including Iraq, the war on terrorism and NATO issues.

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