Karzai in plea for more foreign troops

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The Independent Online

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan Prime Minister, has asked for a larger international security force to be sent to Afghanistan and deployed in provinces outside the capital, Kabul.

Mr Karzai, whose interim government has little control over the four largest cities after Kabul, said yesterday: "A lot of Afghans who came to see us over the last month asked us for the presence of the international security forces in other parts of Afghanistan."

His appeal came during a joint press conference with Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, who was visiting the country for the first time. Some 2,000 foreign troops are currently stationed in and around Kabul as part of a British-led force which is planned to reach 5,000.

Mr Annan welcomed a list of 21 people, drawn up by the UN, who will organise a tribal council known as a loya jirga. This will meet in five months time to choose a government for another 18 months.

Mr Annan said: "I know not everybody will be happy with the list. But it is a good list and let's work with them."

Afghan police created enormous traffic jams all over Kabul yesterday by blocking many roads as a security measure during Mr Annan's visit. They placed rocks across narrow back streets in ruinous slums which the UN secretary general was unlikely to approach on his one-day trip.

Although little fighting is being reported in Afghanistan, many are nervous that power fragmenting across the country will lead to further conflict. Francesc Vendrell, the outgoing UN deputy special envoy, said he thought the manpower of the international force should be increased to 30,000, although the US, which wants to give priority to its hunt for al-Qa'ida and Taliban forces, may oppose this.

Meanwhile, the US President, George Bush, proposed spending an extra $2bn (£1.5bn) to secure US borders and track any foreigners who may try to repeat the terror attacks in New York and Washington.

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