US Defence Secretary Donald H Rumsfeld on Tuesday arrived in Afghanistan, where a resurgence of Taliban attacks has generated new uncertainties in the former Al-Qaeda haven, as NATO prepares to take charge of security in a southern region now commanded by American forces.
In remarks to reporters before landing on Tuesday in the Afghan capital, Kabul, from neighbouring Tajikistan, Rumsfeld welcomed an expanded role by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
But he also expressed worry that drug trafficking is helping bankroll the fundamentalist Taliban movement that sheltered Osama bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda leaders until US forces invaded in October 2001.
There are now about 23,000 US troops in Afghanistan, and Rumsfeld said the top US commander, Lt Gen Karl Eikenberry, was discussing with the Kabul government whether more troops might be required.
"That is the kind of thing that Gen Eikenberry is looking at with the Karzai government," Rumsfeld said yesterday, referring to President Hamid Karzai.
Rumsfeld arrived early on Tuesday and went immediately into talks with officials.