U.S. to give US$2 billion in military weapons

The United States on Monday said it was giving US$2 billion worth of military weapons and vehicles to modernize Afghanistan's national army as the fledgling force contends with a resurgent Taliban resistance.

In a deadly reminder, a suicide attacker hit a checkpoint in southern Kandahar city, killing himself and a policeman and injuring six others. The blast occurred around 8:30 p.m. at a checkpoint near the governor's guesthouse, said police commander Agha Lala.

The attacker walked up to the checkpoint on foot before blowing himself up, said Lala. Among the injured were three policemen and three bystanders.

The blast sent body parts flying all over the pavement, according to an Associated Press reporter on the scene. At least two vehicles were damaged.

More than 10,000 Afghan and coalition troops have been deployed in the south to hunt down insurgents in a massive military campaign billed as the largest since the Taliban regime was ousted in 2001.

At the ceremony in Kabul, Maj. Gen. Robert Durbin said the military donation was in addition to the more than US$2 billion the United States has already committed for military equipment and facilities in Afghanistan.

"The equipment on display today represents an additional US$2 billion that the U.S. alone will provide ... to continue with the equipping and building of the proper facilities and (to) continue to enhance the Afghan National Army to build toward the 70,000 force," he said.

Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said about 200 Humvees and 2,000 assault rifles the first part of the donation will be arriving by year's end. The US$2 billion also covers the building of a national military command center.

A total of 2,500 Humvees and tens of thousands of M-16 assault rifles will be coming in the future. About 20,000 sets of bulletproof helmet and flak jackets will also be given.

"Without the support of the international community, we cannot modernize the army," Wardak said. "NATO and the U.S. have promised to help us and we are very happy. Thanks to the United States for the rebuilding of the Afghan national army."

Afghanistan's army is currently about 38,000 men, according to the Defense Ministry.

The U.S.-led coalition has been heavily involved in training the Afghan army and the end result will be an army "that will be able to stand on its own two feet," said Durbin.

Afghan and coalition forces have been dealing with a spike of violence in recent weeks, particularly across southern Afghanistan, where the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force is preparing to take over security from the U.S.-led coalition, reports AP.

O.Ch.