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Karzai Calls for National Army, Economic Stability

In a nationwide address, Karzai said he would step up efforts to control inflation, curb unemployment and promote industry and foreign investment.

Karzai also said the interim government will curtail public use of banknotes printed by non-government entities. Several groups had printed such notes in recent years.

Karzai pledged his government would not restrict the media, as long as reporting did not damage national interests.

Security in Kabul

Earlier today, Karzai’s government enacted a plan to increase security in Kabul, ordering armed men off the Afghan capital’s streets within the next three days.

Since the former ruling Taliban militia fled the city on Nov. 13, armed men from various factions — sometimes carrying automatic weapons or rocket launchers — have moved freely throughout the city.

Interior Minister Yunis Qanuni told reporters only uniformed police would be allowed to carry arms in Kabul. Under the order, all Afghan soldiers are required to return to military barracks.

The move fulfills a requirement of a United Nations-brokered deal to send international peacekeeping troops to help Afghanistan with security issues. The agreement mandates Afghan military personnel leave the city’s center and return to barracks on the outskirts of Kabul.

After visiting Afghanistan as part of a congressional delegation, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) told reporters that security is a main worry for the Afghan people.

“People are still afraid. Crime is increasing in Kabul [and] the outlying areas,” Wolf said during a press conference in neighboring Pakistan. “The security issue has to be dealt with in a very important way because the people, even in Kabul where there are [international peacekeeping] troops, do not feel secure.”

Karzai has consistently declared that the interim government’s main goal is to provide greater security for the Afghan people. To that end, Karzai said Tuesday he may ask the international community to provide more security troops.

“The delegations that I receive … keep asking for a larger number of international security forces and to be deployed in other provinces, other cities of Afghanistan,” Karzai told the BBC. “As need arises, we might ask for that.”

A core UN-mandated international peacekeeping force has already started work in Afghanistan.

British troops have worked in recent days to clear the runways at Kabul’s airport of mines and repair craters caused by U.S. bombing raids. Once the airport is cleared and repaired, peacekeeping forces will use it to transport materials and troops into the country.

Britain is leading the force for the first three months of its six-month term. An estimated 4,500 peacekeepers are expected to have landed in Afghanistan by month’s end.

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