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Envoy Says Afghan Disarmament Crucial

10 November 2004 --U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said in Kabul that factional militias in Afghanistan must be disarmed for parliamentary elections to succeed next spring.

Coordinated efforts to disarm forces loyal to regional commanders rather than the central government were launched last year. But Armitage said today that a largely Japanese-funded "disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration" drive has been much slower than hoped.

Afghanistan's presidential election a month ago went smoothly even though a target to disarm 40,000 militiamen was not met. Armitage said the world "just witnessed almost a miracle in the election of October 9."

Armitage also said the United States may accelerate reconstruction aid in Afghanistan and is committed to turning the country over to the national government, although he did not indicate a date.

"We desire no permanent military presence in the region," Armitage said. "We have no need for it. We have right now temporarily a need to continue to prosecute Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but at some point in time, the Afghan National Army will be strong enough and will be numerous enough to be able to take care of all the security responsibilities."

Before leaving Afghanistan today, Armitage planned to visit nongovernmental organizations doing reconstruction work.