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New Afghan leaders prepare for peace

CNN Correspondent Harris Whitbeck  

(CNN) -- The incoming government of Afghanistan is switching the focus from winning a war to living in a post-war society. Some leaders have approved some details of a peacekeeping mission. CNN anchor Leon Harris talked about the details of the mission Wednesday with CNN Correspondent Harris Whitbeck in Kabul. This is an edited transcript of their conversation.

WHITBECK: Afghan Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullah Abdullah arrived at Bagram Air Force Base near Kabul [Wednesday] morning. He came from London, where he met with U.N. and British officials, talked about the makeup of the multinational security force. He told us ... he felt that everything was in place, they had agreed to the numbers ... about 3,000 troops ... that will be in the country for several months. He also said he expected those troops to be on the ground within days.

As you know, the new government will take office here December 22. That is this weekend. Everything seems to be in place. The U.N. is telling us there will be a lot of foreign dignitaries arriving in town for the ceremony, which is really meant to show that Afghanistan is ... transitioning from war to peace, and beginning the very difficult task now of trying to rebuild this country.

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HARRIS: Give us an idea of the plan that is in place right now for this government when it does come in this weekend. Is there any sort of special plan that's been announced to the public about how the implementation of this interim government is going to take place?

WHITBECK: Well, the interim government, which will be headed by Hamid Karzai, who is a very respected leader here, will be in place for about six months. That will give the government leaders a chance to basically restart a lot of the government institutions that have been functioning very poorly for the last several years.

After this six-month period, Loya Jirga will be called. Loya Jirga is the traditional way of talking about things in Afghanistan. It's a meeting of tribal chieftains. They will pick an interim government that would be in power for 18 months. The idea here is that within 18 months the elections would be held and a democratic government would be put into place.

But as I said, there is a lot of work beyond going just getting the government running, Leon. The reconstruction of the country is urgent. Also, there are a lot of hungry refugees who are hoping to get back to their homes, and those people need to be clothed and taken care of.

HARRIS: They are just getting started on that road to recovery. Harris Whitbeck in Kabul, thank you very much.


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