Washington pledged its commitment to help in Afghanistan's reconstruction today as the U.S. Defense Secretary warned that some prisoners held in Cuba may be in detention indefinitely.
At a news briefing in Washington today, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said some of the al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners at a U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could end up in the U.S. criminal court system while others may be returned to their countries to face charges there.
But Rumsfeld warned that some of the prisoners at the facility in Cuba may be held in detention while additional intelligence information was gathered.
"These are quite dangerous people. They may just be kept in detention for a period," Rumsfeld told reporters today. "And there's no question there are a number down in Guantanamo Bay who, every time anyone walks by, threaten to kill Americans the first chance they get."
Rumsfeld's admission came as a team of Red Cross workers arrived in Cuba today and prepared to examine the facilities in Guantanamo Bay amid growing international concerns over the treatment and status of detainees.
An additional batch of 30 prisoners landed in Cuba today from Kandahar in southern Afghanistan as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's interim leader, in the capital of Kabul where Powell said the United States was committed to helping Afghanistan "for as long as it takes."
It was the first visit by a U.S. secretary of state to Afghanistan since Henry Kissinger visited the country in 1976 before the Soviet occupation of 1979-1989.
Justice Department Releases Videotape
Powell's visit came as the U.S. Department of Justice released photographs and snippets of a video of five suspected terrorists in Washington today.
U.S. Attorney General John Aschroft said the five videotapes were recovered from the Afghanistan home of Mohammad Atef, who officials believe was a military chief of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
Speaking at a news briefing in Washington today, Ashcroft said the government had tentatively identified four of the five men shown in the videos. The release of the tapes, Ashcroft said, was to allow the American people to be a "constructive part" of the investigations into the Sept. 11 attacks.
After more than three months of a high-profile U.S. manhunt for bin Laden, the prime suspect in the terrorist attacks, and Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar, Washington has declared it would not speculate on their whereabouts.
But U.S. officials warn that some al Qaeda and Taliban members inside Afghanistan are trying to regroup and are capable of conducting more terrorist attacks.
In recent days, U.S. forces combing suspected enemy hideouts in Afghanistan have discovered documents, diagrams and material that, according to Rumsfeld, showed that al Qaeda had "an appetite for weapons of mass destruction."
Short of Cash and Security
More than two months after the Taliban fled Kabul, marking the beginning of the end of the hard-line regime, the situation in Afghanistan continues to be worrying, with reports of warlords still vying for control of provinces in the Central Asian state.
Acknowledging the need for security in Afghanistan at joint news conference with Karzai in Kabul today, Powell said Washington was "concentrating on security (and) how to get security out throughout the whole country."
But Karzai's interim administration, which took office on Dec. 22, is badly strapped for cash. Earlier this week, the U.N. special envoy for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, issued an urgent appeal for $100 million, which he said was immediately needed to enable the interim government to administer the country.
During his Kabul briefing, Powell acknowledged the pressing need for funds. "They frankly need operating cash to pay salaries, to pay for telephone services, to bring office supplies...the very basic essentials one needs to put an administration, a government in place," he said.
Most government employees have not been paid in months.
But he said details of Washington's contribution would be worked out when international donors meet in Tokyo next week for a conference on the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Powell's visit to the region comes amid heightened tensions between India and Pakistan over the disputed Kashmir region. On Friday, he will meet with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in an attempt to help defuse the crisis. India wants Pakistan to crack down on militant groups on its soil, and U.S. officials have tried to persuade Indian officials to recognize Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's recent attempts to combat the groups.
Al Qaeda Suspects Charged in Britain
In other developments:
Two men of Algerian origin were charged with involvement in the al Qaeda network and remanded in custody in a British court today. Brahim Benmerzouga and Baghdad Meziane were arrested in Britain in September. Their charges included the financing of terrorism and possession of inflammatory material. See Story.
Three U.S. Marines were injured in southern Afghanistan when an unknown item exploded as they were burning trash near their base in Kandahar. Military officials said their injuries are not life-threatening and the soldiers were transported to a medical facility for treatment.
The United States is preparing to transfer approximately 90 detainees of Pakistani origin currently being held in Kandahar to the custody of the Pakistani government.