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United States doesn't want peacekeeping role in Afghanistan, Franks says

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States does not want a peacekeeping role in Afghanistan and probably will not join the international security force now operating in the capital of Kabul, says the commander of American military forces in the conflict zone.

Gen. Tommy Franks, head of U.S. Central Command, said Monday the U.S. vision is one of a multiethnic Afghan army making sure Afghanistan does not spiral back into chaos. Franks called the security situation in Afghanistan ``murky and troublesome.''

``For sure, we're going to want to have a police capability in the population centers all over Afghanistan,'' Franks told Pentagon reporters by television from his Tampa, Fla., headquarters. ``For sure, we're going to want to have an Afghan national army. ... The precision of exactly how that will be accomplished is what we're all thinking about.''

Franks said he was about to meet with his chief of staff, Army Maj. Gen. Charles Campbell, to discuss the issue. Campbell is returning from Afghanistan to report on ways to keep the peace in Afghanistan over the long term.

Franks said he then plans to make recommendations to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

``What we'd like to do is improve the security situation in Afghanistan by having the Afghans do it,'' he said. Whatever actions are taken to accomplish that, it probably will not include U.S. peacekeepers, he added.

``I do not believe that we'll be involved in peacekeeping operations inside Afghanistan,'' he said.

Though it's not called peacekeeping, the U.S. military is increasingly working to help keep order within Afghanistan. Not only are American soldiers preparing to help train an Afghan army, they are repairing hospitals, schools and waterworks.

And soon, U.S. military advisers may be sent to prevent clashes among feuding warlords.

Keeping the peace until an Afghan army is ready to do the job could be difficult. Franks said the United States would not join the 4,500-member, British-led international security force in Afghanistan.

The interim Afghan government under Hamid Karzai wants the international force to expand outside Kabul. Franks admitted that at least Afghanistan's cities need policing.

The problem is U.S. allies have been unwilling to commit to a larger peacekeeping force unless the United States also commits more troops, said Ivo Daalder, an analyst at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

President Bush's top envoy on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, told reporters Sunday the United States may send military advisers to act as referees among rival warlords until a national army can be formed. Alternatively, the task could be given to special forces troops already there.

``We are worried about the multiple armies,'' Khalilzad said of the warlords and their armed men. ``There is a danger of multiple armies going to war.''

If the Afghan people want to go back to war, Khalizad warned, no one can stop them.

On ground action in the South Asian country, Franks defended the conduct of American soldiers in a January raid that killed 16 Afghans who were determined later to have been friendly forces.

Franks disputed suggestions the raid gave evidence of failures in U.S. intelligence-gathering.

``The one mistake that I know was made was when people shot at American forces doing their job on the ground in Afghanistan,'' he said.

During the night of Jan. 23, two teams of U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers conducted simultaneous raids on two compounds north of the city of Kandahar, a former headquarters of the ousted Taliban militia rulers.

Franks said intelligence gathered over an extended period suggested that members of Saudi-born fugitive Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network were in the compounds. He said a decision was made to send in Special Forces to confirm that information, rather than send warplanes to bomb the site.

``Intelligence failure? No,'' Franks said, adding that it had been adequately investigated. He said he intended to take no disciplinary action against any U.S. forces involved.

``I am satisfied that, while unfortunate, I will not characterize it as a failure of any type,'' he said.
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