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German Reconnaissance Team Delays Trip to Afghanistan

The international conference on the composition of the peacekeeping troops for Afghanistan concluded yesterday with technical and organisational problems cropping up.

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US Special Forces are already in place in Afghanistan

A team of six German Bundeswehr officers, due to leave for Afghanistan on a reconnaissance mission, has delayed its departure due to security concerns at Begram airport. An undetonated bomb is believed to be lodged under one of the runways.

This was one of the outcomes of the international conference that concluded near London yesterday. The conference had been called to discuss the organisation and composition of a 500-strong international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan.

Main task of German team

Other technical problems such as the inaccessibility to the main Kabul airport were also cited as reasons for the delay. According to the German Defence Ministry, the main task of the German reconnaissance team will be to check out which airport should be used by the main contingent of UN peacekeepers as well as for the transportation of military equipment.

The team will also secure arrangements for the accommodation and nourishment of the soldiers. The German Bundeswehr is contributing 1200 soldiers to the "International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which under the British has to ensure security in Kabul and the surrounding areas.

The German Parliament had approved of sending troops to Afghanistan shortly before Christmas. A group of about 200 German soldiers will head for Afghanistan at the beginning of January, 2002. The bulk of the German contingent will follow by the end of January.

Afghanistan welcomes the ISAF

The Afghan Defence Minister, Mohammad Fahim has said that Afghanistan has agreed to the stationing of the ISAF in their country.

The peacekeeping troops would be concentrated near the Kabul airport, in Puli Charchi on the outskirts of Kabul. About 200 to 300 international soldiers would be be stationed in the heart of the place. They would later move on to other regions. The ISAF will initially be stationed in Afghanistan for six months under a UN mandate.

US rejects Afghan calls to halt bombing

Meanwhile as Afghanistan’s interim government marked a week in office on Saturday, the United States has rejected Afghan calls for an end to US strikes.

The Afghan Defence Minister, Mohammad Fahim said earlier that there was no need for the US bombing when the last strongholds of the Taliban and Bin Laden’s Al Qaida network near the border to Pakistan had crumbled. Fahim also believes that Osama bin Laden has in all probability fled to Peshawar in Pakistan. The US should now enlist the help of Pakistan to track him down, Fahim said.

But President Bush brushed aside calls to end the bombing and has vowed to track down Osam bin Laden, dead or alive. "All options are open", he said, though the fate of the Saudi militant still remains unknown.

Bush also did not rule out further bombing attacks in Afghanistan. He also said he received intelligence reports on a daily basis that indicated bin Laden and his associates wanted to carry out further attacks on America and its allies.

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