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    ANOTHER US MILITARY BASE IN EASTERN AFGHANISTAN

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    ISLAMABAD, February 21st, 2004 (RIA Novosti correspondent Vladimir Shreter) - The United States has opened another military base in northeastern Afghanistan, the News newspaper reported Saturday.

    According to the newspaper, American soldiers stationed in Asadabad, Qunar province, will not search for the Taleban and Al Qaeda militants, but enforce law and order in two northeastern provinces- Qunar and neighbouring Nurestan.

    They will also help local authorities restore the region's economy and infrastructure, and implement the decrees of President Khamid Karzai.

    Other subdivisions of the coalition troops will proceed with military operations against Mojaheddins opposing the incumbent regime in Kabul.

    This will be the ninth regiment formed outside Kabul to assist restoration in provinces. President Karzai who is considered to be pro-Washington has no sufficient forces (army and police) yet to maintain order in the provinces. (Regional ethno-political elite - the quasi-state of ethnic Uzbek Gen. Abdurrashid Dostum in Mazar-e-Sharif in the north, or of despotic ethnic Tajik Gen. Ismail Khan in Gerat near the Iranian border - only seem to be loyal to President Karzai on words. They, however, have their own armed formations which makes them virtually immune.) For two-odd years after the Taleban regime was toppled, the 12,000-strong military contingent of the anti-terrorist coalition was hunting down those who disagreed with the new regime in Kabul (who were not always Taleban supporters either), and 4,600 peacekeepers from ISAF performed police functions only in Kabul and on its outskirts.

    The coalition and peacekeepers then began gradually expanding their control over to provinces, the News newspaper reports. The US military were stationed at six relevant bases, New Zealanders helped local authorities in the Bamian province, the British in Mazar-e-Sharif and ISAF Germans in Qunduz.

    In the next six weeks, another three bases are to be opened in provincial centres of eastern Afghanistan - Ghazni, Khowst and Qalat.

    In parallel, a new professional multi-ethnic National Army of Afghanistan is being formed along with Afghan police. So far, the army numbers about 10,000 people (cf.: Gen. Dostum alone has up to 30,000). However, the government intends to increase the army up to 70,000 within two years.

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