KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) Secretary of State Colin Powell, the most senior U.S. official to visit Afghanistan in 25 years, promised yesterday the United States would help rebuild the country and wipe out the “contamination” of terrorism.

Paul Wong
Aghan Health Minister Suhalia Siddiqi and Afghan Interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai greet U.S. Secretary of State Colon Powell yesterday in Afghanistan.<br><br>AP PHOTO

Powell told Hamid Karzai, the interim Afghan leader, the United States would make a substantial financial commitment at next week”s international aid donors conference in Tokyo and that U.S. forces would be relentless in pursuing the remnants of al-Qaida and the Taliban.

“This country needs everything,” Powell said on NBC”s “Today” show. “It needs a banking system. It needs a health-care system. It needs a sanitation system. It needs a phone system. It needs road construction. Everything you can imagine.”

Prime Minister Karzai, obviously buoyed by Powell”s visit, emphasized Afghanistan”s deep needs during a joint news conference at the presidential palace.

“The Afghan people have been asking for a staying commitment, a staying partnership, from the United States to Afghanistan in order to make the region safe, in order to make Afghanistan stand back on its own feet and continue to fight against terrorism or the return of terrorism in any form to this country,” Karzai said.

Powell assured Karzai that Washington would be steadfast.

“We don”t want to leave any contamination behind,” Powell said of continuing military efforts to purge Afghanistan of terrorists. “That is in the interests of the Afghan people and certainly the mission we came here to perform.”

In Washington, the U.S. government released photos and video excerpts of five suspected al-Qaida members delivering what Attorney General John Ashcroft described as “martyrdom messages from suicide terrorists.”

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