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Thursday, April 29, 2004

U.S. seeks reconstruction aid from SDF in Afghanistan


Staff writer

OSAKA -- With the security situation in Afghanistan worsening, the U.S. State Department's coordinator for the country voiced hope for increased Japanese participation, including military assistance for reconstruction efforts at the local level.

"We welcome Japanese support and would like to work with Japan's Self-Defense Forces on this issue," William Taylor said in a Tuesday evening video press conference from Washington.

Specifically, Taylor said he hoped Japan would consider SDF contributions to provincial reconstruction teams, or groups of military and civilians who are engaged in a variety of smaller reconstruction efforts outside of Kabul.

"Japan is working on large-scale projects at the moment, but the U.S. is encouraging other countries to make contributions to the provincial reconstruction teams, which operate throughout Afghanistan," Taylor said.

Each reconstruction team includes between 50 and 70 soldiers, he added.

There are about 6,500 NATO troops currently in Afghanistan, plus another 13,000 U.S. troops.

Taylor's comments came at a time when the situation in Afghanistan continues to worsen. U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai exercises little control nor enjoys much loyalty outside of the capital.

Over the past two months, there have been battles and skirmishes between the forces of local warlords and Karzai's government in the northern province of Faryab and the western city of Herat.

Another major problem, Taylor admitted, is soaring opium production.



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