Afghanistan

US wants to speed up rebuilding Afghanistan despite the crisis in Iraq

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16 Jan 2003, 01:22 UTC - A top U.S. defense official says the United States wants to speed up Afghan relief projects and military training for the new Afghan national army.

Speaking in Kabul Wednesday, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Afghan rebuilding efforts can not move too quickly.

Mr. Wolfowitz spoke to reporters after several hours of meetings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim.

Mr. Wolfowitz said he reassured the Kabul government that U.S. financial help will continue despite the crisis in Iraq.

The U.S. delegation also watched as elements of the new Afghan national army went through live-fire training exercises.

U.S. and French military officers have been building and training the new army, which currently has about two-thousand soldiers.

Afghan officials hope the new army will help forge national unity and extend government control to areas outside Kabul now controlled by regional warlords.

Mr. Wolfowitz and Defense Department finance chief Dov Zakheim also inspected rebuilding projects being led by the U.S. military. The two officials toured a women's hospital under renovation and a road improvement project on the highway from Kabul to the southern city of Kandahar.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.