Published January 13, 2015
The U.S. Marines who had been guarding the U.S. air base at Kandahar, Afghanistan, saw some friendly faces Friday: Army troops from the 101st Airborne Division who arrived to relieve them.
"Give me a hug — I haven't had a shower in 42 days," one Marine said as he left his perimeter post on America's largest Afghan base.
As the two branches of the military sorted out the transfer, Afghan Prime Minister Hamid Karzai embarked on his first official trip abroad. He planned to first make a pilgrimage to Mecca, and then head to a conference of donor nations in Tokyo, hoping to garner $5 billion in aid for his war-beaten land.
Karzai will meet with President Bush in Washington on Jan. 28, said an aide known by the single name of Humayan.
The 101st Airborne takes formal command of the Kandahar air base Saturday. About 800 soldiers had arrived by Friday morning, and transport planes kept bringing more. The Marines are being freed up to conduct the quick raids they were trained for.
Army Sgt. Shawn Coulter of Honesdale, Pa., heading out to a perimeter post, said the Marines had told him he'd "learn to love it." Asked if he believed that, he said; "Probably not."
"We don't take the responsibility lightly ... this is a very, very dangerous place," said an Army spokesman, Maj. Ignacio Perez.
Another planeload of 30 detainees suspected of fighting for the Taliban or Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terror network was flown from Kandahar late Thursday, but unlike previous groups, the prisoners were taken to Pakistan rather than the U.S. Naval detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Military spokesmen declined to give further information about the flight, but the detainees were presumed to be Pakistani nationals.
Obliquely criticizing the United States, the International Committee of the Red Cross, charged with monitoring the well-being of prisoners of war, said the Guantanamo detainees should be granted that status.
"The concept of 'battlefield detainees' does not exist in international humanitarian law," said ICRC spokesman Darcy Christen in Geneva. "All people captured on a battlefield are assumed automatically to be prisoners of war."
The Pentagon says that while ICRC delegates will be granted access to the prisoners, they are "battlefield detainees," implying that they do not automatically qualify to be treated as POWs — an internationally defined status.
As Karzai departed from the Afghan capital, Kabul, his interim government — which is nearly flat broke and facing the prospect of building the country up from nearly nothing — said it needed the world's help.
"We pledged to the international community ... that we would bring change in our country," Interior Minister Younus Qanooni said. "Now it is their turn to pledge their help ... If they will not help and assist us, we will face many problems."
The Tokyo conference, taking place on Monday and Tuesday with some 50 nations attending, aims to raise $5 billion dollars for the first 2 years of reconstruction. But Japanese officials stressed that longer-term commitments are needed.
The meeting with Bush, meanwhile, will provide an opportunity for the United States and Afghanistan to develop a partnership against terrorism, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said.
"We look forward to an Afghanistan that is prosperous, accountable to its citizens and at peace with its neighbors and the international community," Fleischer said in Washington Thursday.
Secretary of State Colin Powell met with the head of Afghanistan's interim government on Thursday. He pledged a long-term U.S. commitment to wiping out the "contamination" of terrorism in the country.
Other nations, meanwhile, moved against suspected members of Al Qaeda that had been sheltered by Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers.
In a first for British authorities, two Algerian men suspected of being involved in a plot to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Paris were charged Thursday with membership in Al Qaeda, blamed by the United States for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Police in the Philippines arrested three men with suspected Al Qaeda links; sources in Pakistan said five suspects had been arrested following a high-speed chase, and Bosnian authorities turned over six Algerians suspected of having terrorist links to U.S. military authorities.
In Indonesia, a news report said a Pakistani citizen had been deported to Egypt in connection with suspected terrorist activities, including last month's alleged attempt by a man to attack a U.S. airliner with explosives hidden in his shoes.
The Pentagon has not publicly identified any of detainees held by the United States at the Kandahar base or at Guantanamo. But defense officials said that among those at Guantanamo is the former Taliban army chief of staff, Mullah Fazel Mazloom.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Thursday said he could not predict how long detainees would be kept at Guantanamo. Some may be tried before a special U.S. military tribunal, others in U.S. civilian courts and still others will be sent back to their home countries for prosecution, he said.
He held out the possibility that some could be kept at Guantanamo Bay "for a period" even after they have been interrogated, the defense secretary said.
U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan reported several injuries, none life-threatening.
Three U.S. Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit were injured when an unknown item exploded in a pit where they were burning trash at their Kandahar base. And an Australian commando lost two toes after stepping on a mine while on patrol with U.S.-led coalition forces north of Kandahar.
In other developments:
• In Geneva, the United Nations refugee agency said it had relocated some 2,600 Afghan refugees from the Killi Faizo camp at Pakistan's border to camps farther inside Pakistan.
• Afghanistan's new ban on cultivating the opium poppy will take a bite out of the global narcotics trade, but only if farmers get aid as an incentive not to grow it, the Vienna-based U.N. Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention said Thursday.
• Twenty Turkish troops left for Kabul as part of an advance party of peacekeepers, a military official said.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.