- KABUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters)
- A provisional government on which the world has pegged its hopes for
a peaceful Afghanistan prepared on Friday to take power, but U.S. President
George. W. Bush warned that 2002 would still be a "war year.''
- A disputed U.S. attack on a convoy of suspected Taliban
or al Qaeda leaders marred the run-up to a ceremony on Saturday that would
mark the first orderly transition of power in two decades in the central
- Pashtun tribal chieftain Hamid Karzai was to be sworn
in as leader of a government molded by the United Nations and charged with
rebuilding the war-shattered nation whose ousted Taliban rulers sheltered
Osama bin Laden and his fighters as they allegedly plotted the Sept. 11
attacks on America that killed nearly 3,300 people.
- Some 75 British Royal Marines, the vanguard of an international
peacekeeping force expected to swell to at least 1,500, touched down in
Kabul while the United States stepped up its hunt for bin Laden in the
cave-riddled mountains of eastern Afghanistan.
- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said U.S. forces had
begun searching al Qaeda caves and tunnels and that more troops would be
sent to press the hunt, as Washington left the ''nation-building'' mission
to its European and Muslim allies.
- The Pentagon also rushed into battle a new bomb designed
to kill people in caves and tunnels with a higher-energy blast than standard
- CONVOY BOMBED
- U.S. defense officials announced AC-130 gunships and
Navy fighters had attacked and destroyed a convoy in Afghanistan believed
to be carrying "leadership'' of the Taliban or al Qaeda.
- But reports from the region said the convoy instead comprised
Afghan tribal elders on their way to Kabul to attend the inauguration of
the interim government, killing about 65 people -- something the Pentagon
- "There is no doubt in their (U.S. military's Central
Command) mind that they hit what they wanted to hit and that it was the
bad guys,'' Marine Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, told Reuters.
- Bush, in an interview with reporters in Washington, said
great progress had been made in his ``war on terrorism'' but warned that
peace was not at hand.
- "Next year will be a war year as well because we're
going to continue to hunt down these al Qaeda people in this particular
theater, as well as other places,'' he said.
- Bush said the United States would be willing to send
U.S. special forces or logistical support to countries that ask for help.
Washington has identified more than 60 countries with al Qaeda cells in
them in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
- "Our war against terror extends way beyond Afghanistan.
And at some point in time maybe some president will come and say you have
the expertise that we don't, would you mind maybe have some of your troops
with ours. And the answer is, 'you bet,''' Bush said.
- ON TO IRAQ?
- A majority of Americans support extending the military
campaign to Iraq, according to the latest opinion poll.
- Secretary of State Colin Powell warned that military
success in Afghanistan did not guarantee a similar result in Iraq, proposed
by Washington's hawks as the next target in the war on terrorism.
- "They are so significantly different that you can't
take the Afghan model and immediately apply it to Iraq,'' he said.
- Bush admitted that the whereabouts of bin Laden was unknown,
but repeated his promise the wealthy Saudi-born militant would be caught.
- "I haven't heard much from him recently, which means
he could be in a cave that doesn't have an opening to it anymore, or could
be in a cave where he can get out, or may have tried to slither out into
neighboring Pakistan. We don't know. But I will tell you this: We're going
to find him,'' Bush said.
- Pakistani security forces were holding hundreds of prisoners
captured fleeing Afghanistan. After a mass escape of al Qaeda fighters,
they searched cars and checked women wearing the all-enveloping burqa in
case they were male fugitives in disguise.
- Bin Laden ally Mullah Mohammad Omar, the reclusive head
of the ousted Taliban movement, also has eluded capture and was said by
a former Taliban minister to be safe at an unknown location in Afghanistan.
- Mullah Abdul Shakour, ex-minister of communications and
reconstruction, said all the Taliban leaders were safe, and threatened
retaliation against any country that extradited members of the Taliban
leadership to the United States.
- PROVISIONAL RULERS TO BE SWORN IN
- The Taliban, whose five-year hold on power crumbled quickly
under assault from the United States and the Afghan opposition group Northern
Alliance, was to be replaced on Saturday by a 30-member government formed
under United Nations guidance during meetings in Bonn, Germany last month.
- It will rule for six months while a Loya Jirga, or traditional
assembly of elders, forms another government to run the fractured country
until elections two years later.
- The new government's task will be difficult. The World
Bank and United Nations said in a report unveiled in Brussels that Afghanistan
will need $9 billion in aid over the next five years to rebuild after two
decades of war.
- The United States appeared ready to help, saying it would
immediately recognize the new government. U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan
James Dobbins told reporters in Kabul he had delivered a message of support
from President Bush to Afghan leader designate Karzai.
- The prospect of a new era in Afghanistan was dampened
by the renewal of old hostilities between neighboring Pakistan and India.
- India said it was recalling its envoy to Pakistan for
what it termed Islamabad's failure to act against terrorism following an
attack on the Indian parliament last week. There were big troop movements
close to the border between the two nuclear rivals.
- BUSH URGES PAKISTAN CRACKDOWN
- Bush joined India in urging Pakistan's President Pervez
Musharraf to crack down on Pakistan-based militants blamed in the attack
in which 14 people died.
- "As President Musharraf does so, he will have our
full support,'' Bush said in statement.
- The shock waves from the Sept. 11 attacks continued to
reverberate around the world.
- Somali police arrested four Iraqi Kurds and a Palestinian
for questioning over possible links to al Qaeda network or other extremist
groups. Somalia has been talked of as a possible new target of the "war
on terror,'' and has come under strong U.S. pressure to act against militants.
- Yemen's President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, ordered his forces
to use an "iron fist'' in the hunt for bin Laden supporters after
22 people died in a battle with suspected al Qaeda militants.
- Chinese police arrested nine Muslims for "illegal
preaching'' in China's restive western province Xinjiang, which borders
Afghanistan, saying the roundup was part of a campaign against "separatists,
terrorists and religious extremists.''
- Iran said it opposed the deployment of foreign forces
in neighboring Afghanistan. Conservatives in Tehran accused the United
States of being "drunk with superficial victory in Afghanistan'' after
the U.S. navy intercepted an oil tanker carrying Iranian fuel in the Gulf.
- The U.S. Justice Department said it had nearly completed
questioning 5,000 foreign men in the United States in a controversial attempt
to find out more about militant activities. It said it had generated leads
useful in the nation's anti-terrorism campaign.
- New York City firefighters and police met troops of the
U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division at an air base north of Kabul and buried
a piece of the World Trade Center in honor of comrades who died in the
September 11 attacks.