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Problems for Peacekeepers

The first thing the international peacekeeping force for Afghanistan is battling with is logistical problems

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German soldiers will be part of the International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan.

Soldiers from twelve countries are packing their bags and preparing to head to Afghanistan. They will be part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). A total of some 4500 ISAF troops are due to start patrolling in mid-January.

The first contingent of 250 troops, including 200 Germans, is due to arrive in Afghanistan next week. Their task will be to build the infrastructure necessary for the main force.

But before any of them can set a foot on Afghan soil, many logistical problems have to be solved.

Preparing the ground

Since earlier this week, a reconnaissance team from twelve European nations has been surveying the ground in and around Kabul.

The aim of the 25-strong team is to check where the ISAF troops can be stationed. The team is also investigating where the peacekeepers can get water, electricity and food.

The first three German members of the team have already wrapped up their investigations. They returned to Germany on Friday and are due to hand in their reports this weekend.

German defense minister Rudolf Scharping will then decide when and how the German contingent for the international force will be deployed.

Germany's parliament has approved up to 1200 German troops for the force. But defense minister Scharping expects that only 800 to 1000 Germans will actually go to Afghanistan.

No usable infrastructure

What the international reconnaissance team has found in Afghanistan shows that the task for the peacekeeping force will be even more difficult than expected.

Not only will the ISAF have its hands full trying to safeguard peace and the standing of the new Afghan government. The force will also spend a lot of time and energy just keeping its daily operations running smoothly.

A German member of the 25-strong team said there was virtually no military infrastructure in and around Kabul that the ISAF could use.

All equipment will have to be flown in or transported to the region by land and sea.

This week, the German navy began to load trucks, generators and other heavy equipment onto navy vessels. It will take them about three weeks to reach their destination.

Other goods like food will have to be flown in.

But according to a German officer on the reconnaissance team, the airports of Kabul and Bagram are both seriously damaged. They will need to be repaired before international planes can land there.

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