Rumsfeld welcomes Nato role in Afghanistan

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The US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Afghanistan today, where a resurgence of Taliban attacks has generated new uncertainties as Nato prepares to take charge of security in a southern region now commanded by American forces.

In remarks to reporters before landing in the Afghan capital Kabul from neighbouring Tajikistan, Rumsfeld welcomed an expanded role by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

But he also expressed worry that drug trafficking was helping bankroll the fundamentalist Taliban movement that sheltered Osama bin Laden and other al Qaida leaders until US forces invaded in October 2001.

There are now about 23,000 US troops in Afghanistan, and Rumsfeld said the top US commander, Lt Gen Karl Eikenberry, was discussing with the Kabul government whether more troops may be required.

"That is the kind of thing that General Eikenberry is looking at with the Karzai government," Rumsfeld said, referring to President Hamid Karzai.

After arriving in Kabul, Rumsfeld went immediately into talks with officials. He is due to meet Karzai later.