Donald Rumsfeld made an unannounced trip to a provincial reconstruction headquarters here to view preparations for October's presidential election and to review efforts to curb insurgents and the narcotics trade.
"It is so clear that the Afghan people are winning the struggle to rebuild this nation," Rumsfeld said during his seventh visit to Afghanistan since a U.S.-led coalition routed al-Qaida and its Taliban hosts in late 2001. His return, made with Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was meant to show that the Bush administration has not forgotten its first front in the campaign against terror, even as more troops and money are devoted to Iraq, reports Chron.com
According to Bloomberg.com attacks by suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters on coalition forces, civilians, aid and electoral workers in recent months forced the postponement of the elections, first from June until September. The presidential election is now scheduled for October and the national assembly vote for April next year.
"We know that the Taliban and al-Qaeda are operating on the borders of the country," Rumsfeld said in remarks before he arrived in Kabul, according to a U.S. Defense Department transcript. "We know they are determined to not have Afghanistan be a successful, free nation."
His one day visit is taking place amid increasing militancy in the south, southeast and eastern part of the war-ravaged country as well as emerging rift between the US-backed Karzai and former Mujahidin leaders headed by powerful Defense Minister Fahim.
Fahim, who was dropped as chief running mate in the presidential race last month vowed to back Karzai' rival the former Education Minister Yunus Qanooni in the run.
For his part, President Karzai thanked the US government as well as Defense Secretary for their support in ousting terrorism, Taliban and rebuilding process of Afghanistan.
Taliban's fugitive leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, who terms the election as a "drama to legitimize the US occupation of Afghanistan" has threatened to derail the polls by any possible means, informs Xinhuanet.com
On the second day of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, a plenary meeting was held, in which Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan and IMF head Christine Lagarde took part