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U-S Soldiers Begin Guarding Afghan President - 2002-07-22


U-S soldiers, including elite Special Forces, have begun guarding Afghan President Hamid Karzai, amid reports of growing concerns for the president's personal safety.

The move to replace nearly 50 of Mr. Karzai's Afghan bodyguards follows the unsolved assassination of Vice President Abdul Qadir earlier this month in Kabul.

At the Pentagon today (Monday), U-S Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld characterized the U-S deployment protecting Mr. Karzai as temporary. He said he expected Afghan troops to assume presidential security responsibilities as soon as advanced security training is completed.

Earlier, in the capital, a Presidential spokesman (Fazil Akbar) told the Associated Press the probe of the vice president's death has not yielded results, and that something has to be done to increase the president's safety.

The spokesman told Time Magazine that several senior government ministers are also under the protection of U-S troops. U-S military officials have declined to comment on the security moves.

President Karzai's personal security has been in the hands of soldiers loyal to Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim -- the powerful Northern Alliance commander whose private army helped oust the Taleban regime from the capital late last year.

Some Western diplomats view Mr. Fahim's force -- which includes hundreds of tanks and armored personnel carriers -- as a possible threat to the Karzai government.

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