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Karzai Attends Graduation Ceremony of New Afghan Soldiers - 2002-07-23


U-S and Afghan officials confirm that American soldiers are now serving as bodyguards for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, amid concerns for the president's safety.

The move to replace nearly 50 of Mr. Karzai's Afghan guards follows the unsolved assassination of Vice President Abdul Qadir earlier this month in Kabul.

A spokesman for Mr. Karzai (Fazel Akbar) said Monday that the Afghan guards were ordinary soldiers who need special training before resuming their security duties.

At the Pentagon, U-S Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the United States will help provide that training. He said Washington looks at the decision to provide guards for Mr. Karzai as a short-term move.

Mr. Rumsfeld said it is important that the outcome of Afghanistan's recent grand assembly, or Loya Jirga, not be overturned by violence.

President Karzai's personal security has been in the hands of soldiers loyal to Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim -- the powerful Northern Alliance commander whose private army helped oust the Taleban regime from the capital late last year.

Some Western diplomats view Mr. Fahim's force -- which includes hundreds of tanks and armored personnel carriers -- as a possible threat to the Karzai government.

The defense secretary also said Pakistan has captured several suspected members of the al-Qaida terrorist organization, including one man who might have been a top financial official for the terrorist group.

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