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Background: Building a Nation

July 25, 2002 at 12:00 AM EDT


SPENCER MICHELS: Just two weeks ago, in broad daylight, Afghan Vice President Abdul Qadir was gunned down by two unidentified men outside his office in downtown Kabul. Immediately, Afghan leaders scrambled to provide new security for other top leaders.

International peacekeepers Monday began training hundreds of new bodyguards, and President Hamid Karzai personally asked the U.S. for a team of American soldiers to help protect him. That team begins its work shortly. The assassinated Qadir, one of five Vice Presidents, was one of the most prominent ethnic Pashtuns in the country, where the four main ethnic groups have been frequent rivals in the past.

MOMAR SOMAD, Spokesman, Afghan Foreign Ministry: It is a loss of an important figure in the government, loss of an Afghan with respect of all Afghans from all walks of life, from all ethnic groups; someone who was involved in the fight against terrorism, in the fight against invasions. He was a true Mujahadid, the freedom fighter.

SPENCER MICHELS: Qadir’s murder was the second deadly incident involving ethnic rivalries in the government. In February, the Afghan tourism minister was beaten to death in Kabul, allegedly by men linked to the Northern Alliance faction. Local rivalries may have indirectly led to the American bombing in Uruzgan Province that claimed 54 civilian casualties.

U.S. officials are still investigating the July 1 attack on a local wedding. The attack provoked angry protests from villagers, and demands from top Afghan leaders to have greater input in U.S. air raids.

SPOKESMAN: They want to show the international community that from now on it is unacceptable for the people of Afghanistan to be the victims of such actions.

SPENCER MICHELS: According to The New York Times, the air strike was one of many based on flawed intelligence from local warlords with their own agendas. The article also said the latest attack “crystallized a sense of anger, undermining the good will the United States gained by helping to dislodge the Taliban.” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued this denial Monday:

DONALD RUMSFELD: There had been speculation that the U.S. forces and the Afghan forces on the ground received false information from some warlord for the purpose of confusing us so that we would kill some of his enemy warlord people. We have no evidence of that at all.

SPENCER MICHELS: While the Pentagon has acknowledged that its air raid killed civilians, it did say the mission was linked to the ongoing search for Mullah Mohammed Omar, the fugitive Taliban leader. Today, Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed the security situation and rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan with the Afghan foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah.