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U.S Military Will Help Train Afghan Army, Rumsfeld Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 25, 2002 – Plans are under way for U.S. and coalition forces to help train and create an Afghan national army, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today.

The establishment of an Afghan army is still in the early stages, the secretary told reporters at an afternoon Pentagon press conference. Rumsfeld said he expects "very small numbers" of U.S. troops would assist in the training.

"While training schedules are still being worked out, current plans call for training cycles of approximately 10 weeks each for a duration of something like 18 months for the first units," he said. He noted that Afghan recruits would be provided military training at the individual, squad, platoon, company and battalion levels.

A cadre of commissioned and noncommissioned Afghan officers will also be formed "to assume the responsibility of training future Afghan soldiers," Rumsfeld noted. He anticipated that the Afghans "might take charge" of the training program by the end of the year.

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted that U.S. service members involved in training Afghans could be "in the low hundreds, at most." He said the training "is directly" part of the U.S. military's mission to ensure Afghanistan no longer is a safe haven for terrorists.

Myers said interim Afghan government leader Hamid Karzai emphatically doesn't want the United States to do the security job, but to provide the Afghans the wherewithal to do that job themselves.

Another issue, Rumsfeld noted, is finding the money to train, equip and pay an Afghan army. In fact, he added, the size of a national army would be proportionate to available funds.

He said the United States and coalition countries are trying to raise money for both the interim and follow-on international security assistance forces and for the training of the Afghan army.

Similar training arrangements are being discussed for Yemen and the Republic of Georgia, Rumsfeld remarked. The intent is to train soldiers so they can better defend and fight against terrorism.

Myers noted for reporters that less than 600 U.S. troops in Joint Task Force 510 are now providing advisory and training support to the Philippines in its fight with Abu Sayyaf. That terrorist group has ties to the al Qaeda network.

U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan continue to search cave complexes within the country, Myers continued, finding small arms, rocket-propelled grenades, computers, manuals, passports, phone lists, maps and bomb-making notes.

Other searches, the general noted, revealed that al Qaeda terrorists might have been trying to develop anthrax at several locations in Afghanistan, including one near Kandahar.

"We did find some equipment that was indicative (of), perhaps, manufacturing anthrax," Myers said. He added, "Some of the swabs that we took have turned out positive for anthrax." The amounts detected were so small, however, that the anthrax could be naturally occurring, Myers noted.

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