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Afghan ambassador says he doubts bin Laden is in his country


Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S. said Tuesday he doubts al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is hiding in his country but believes he will be captured in "a matter of time."

Speaking at a luncheon hosted by the World Affairs Council of Dallas-Fort Worth, Ambassador Said T. Jawad said he believes reports that bin Laden suffers from kidney failure and requires dialysis.

"These kind of possibilities are not available in a cave in Afghanistan," Jawad said. "We should also look, where did we find his friends? Some of the major al-Qaida leaders were arrested in big cities, not the tribal areas. ... I think it will be a matter of time to catch him, and hopefully he will be caught and brought to justice for what he has done to humanity and to Afghans and to Americans."

Nearly five years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan that followed, 36 countries now have troops there and 41 countries are helping train its national army, Jawad said.

The country has a constitution, and 8.4 million citizens elected a president and parliament that has more than 25 percent women, he said. More than a third of children now attending school are girls, he said. For years women suffered under the Taliban's oppressive rule.

But Afghanistan is the world's sixth poorest country, and only a fourth of residents have access to safe drinking water, Jawad said. Another problem is opium production, which has increased because of poverty and security lapses in some areas. Police officers are not paid or trained well, he said.

Also, Taliban fighters with better weapons, communications systems and vehicles are crossing the border in larger groups, so their training camps and recruiting must be stopped, Jawad said.

U.S. artillery and airstrikes killed between 50 and 60 suspected Taliban militants Tuesday in Afghanistan, where more than 200 Taliban fighters have been reported killed in the operation since the weekend.

Jawad said that the military effort was important, "but in order to truly succeed, this is not enough. We have to clear the area of the presence of the terrorists and then be able to hold them. Otherwise ... they will go to the next province."

Jawad said the Afghan people were grateful for the assistance provided by the U.S. and the sacrifices made by troops.

"Collectively the Afghan government, the people of Afghanistan and the international community have achieved a lot in Afghanistan," Jawad said. "Collectively there are great challenges, but these challenges are not like other wars in our region. Very clearly Afghanistan is not Iraq. The definition of the victories is very clear in Afghanistan. ... We are not out of the woods yet, but we have come a long way."

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