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Karzai Takes Control

Spencer Michels reports on the state of rebuilding in Afghanistan and the U.S. hunt for Osama bin Laden now that the new interim Afghan government is in charge.

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    In the streets of Kabul this weekend, Afghan men and women rallied together in support of their new post-Taliban government. On Saturday, as Afghan and British soldiers monitored the streets of Kabul, Afghan leaders from various tribes and ethnic groups convened for a peaceful transition of power, a rarity in recent Afghan history.


    Hamid Karzai, the new interim prime minister, formally took office from Burhanuddin Rabbani, the political leader of the Northern Alliance during Taliban rule. Karzai's term will last six months. The audience included women, members of the Karzai cabinet, and delegates from the U.S., Russia, and Afghanistan's neighbors in Central Asia, all with a vested interest in a peaceful Afghanistan. Later, Karzai said a key mission of his would be recreating an economy destroyed by 23 years of war.

  • HAMID KARZAI, Interim Prime Minister, Afghanistan:

    Afghanistan must go from an economy of war to an economy of peace. And those people who could earn a living by taking a gun must be enabled, through programs, through plans, through projects, to put the gun aside.


    The next day, Karzai convened the first meeting of his cabinet to discuss security issues. And today he announced the appointment of Rashid Dostum, a prominent Uzbek warlord, as deputy defense minister. Dostum had complained that Uzbeks were underrepresented in the cabinet. The transition was not without controversy. Late last week, American air strikes attacked a traveling convoy, killing at least 50 people. This man survived the attack.

  • MAN (Translated):

    All the people in the convoy were elders from different tribes in the eastern part of the country who decided to attend the inauguration of Karzai. There were no Taliban among us. All the people were tribal elders.


    U.S. Leaders said then, and still maintain, that the convoy consisted of Taliban and al-Qaida leaders who had fired on American planes.


    The indications that I have right now tell me that this was a target that we intended to strike.


    Meanwhile the search for Osama bin Laden continued. On Sunday, U.S. Warplanes resumed air strikes, and planned to use bombs designed to suck the air out of the caves and tunnels in the region. Separately, local soldiers are combing the caves, retrieving ammunition and looking for any al-Qaida clues. For his part, Hamid Karzai said he had no new information on bin Laden's whereabouts.


    I don't have precise information as to where he may be exactly. Two days ago I was given some indication of his whereabouts. We will work on that, and if we find him there he will be arrested.


    With the Afghan war drawing to a close, the new government is beginning its efforts to restore everyday life. Today, millions of Afghans still live in survival camps like these, both within Afghanistan and in Pakistan and Iran. Some are returning home through the snowy mountains after years of being on the run. This tunnel linking Kabul to northern Afghanistan was sealed off four years ago by anti-Taliban guerrillas, but was recently reopened, making the return home a little easier.

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