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New U-S Commander In Afghanistan - 2002-06-01


The new commander of the U-S-led forces in Afghanistan -- Lieutenant General Dan McNeill -- says his main priority is to hunt and kill elusive al-Qaida and Taleban forces.

In an interview with the New York Times published today (Saturday), Lieutenant General McNeill said al-Qaida and Taleban remnants would try to destabilize the new Afghan government. He said killing them will also have a secondary benefit of helping to provide security to establish the new Afghan administration.

The American commander said he is not trying to create a permanent U-S military presence in Central Asia. He added he does not intend to use coalition troops to help provide nationwide security in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the U-S Army is investigating an incident in which U-S special forces in Afghanistan mistook a group of Afghan allies for enemy fighters and killed three of them in a brief firefight.

Local Afghans have complained of a number of incidents in the region in which U-S forces mistakenly targeted Afghans who were not al-Qaida or Taleban members.

The situation has been complicated by skirmishes among local tribal leaders.

In one such incident Friday night, at least 10 people were killed in factional fighting in the capital of the southwestern Afghan province of Nimroz.

Meanwhile, a bomb exploded outside the palace of the provincial governor of Kandahar late Friday, causing no casualties and only light damage. A spokesman for Governor Gul Agha blamed the attack on extremists seeking to disrupt the election of delegates to the national grand council -- or loya jirga -- that meets in Kabul later this month to select a new government.

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