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U.S. not ready to back peacekeeping force


By Kelly Wallace
CNN White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House said Friday the timing is not right for a multinational peacekeeping force to enter Afghanistan and signaled that U.S. troops are not likely to take part in any peacekeeping mission.

"The president looks forward to the day when peacekeepers can arrive in Afghanistan but there is still a war under way," said Ari Fleischer, President Bush's spokesman. "There is still a mission to be achieved, and that is the destruction of the al Qaeda network."

Fleischer said the situation on the ground throughout Afghanistan remains "fluid" and said it is "premature" to discuss the make-up of a multinational force until a political settlement is reached on the shape of a future Afghan government.

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"The president will support the best structure to maintain the peace in Afghanistan and (that) is likely to be a multinational force," Fleischer said.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the administration would oppose any peacekeeping mission "that would happen to inhibit us in pursuing our goals." But he said a peacekeeping force in territory seized by the Northern Alliance would be unlikely to do that.

"It's in areas where we're active -- which is east and south of Kabul, setting aside pockets of resistance elsewhere -- that it is a bit more of an issue. But on the other hand, no one is proposing a peackeeping force there," Rumsfeld said.

Fleischer also hinted that U.S. troops would not be part of such a mission, saying the president's policy continues to be that the purpose of the American military is to fight wars, not keep the peace. "The president's philosophy that the purpose of the American military is to be used to win wars remains," Fleischer said. "The president has been very clear about the use of the American military in peacekeeping missions. Having said that, the U.S. is still at war and that is what the purpose of the military is." When reporters asked if this means the president is ruling out authorizing U.S. troops to participate in any Afghanistan peacekeeping mission, Fleischer said, "The president's policy remains unchanged." Bush, during the presidential campaign, repeatedly said that U.S. troops should be used to make the peace, but that other nation's troops should be used to keep the peace.


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