US Peace Corps volunteers are expected to return to Afghanistan in about three weeks and to other central Asian states soon afterwards to help in reconstruction work, US President George W Bush said in Washington last week.
"They'll be returning to the republics of Central Asia. And within three weeks, a team will leave for Afghanistan, to address how the Peace Corps can assist that country in reconstruction," Bush told a news conference on Friday.
Peace Corps volunteers worked in Afghanistan in the 1960's and 1970's before the Soviet occupation. The organisation also worked in some of the Central Asian states after their independence from the former Soviet Union but suspended work following the events of 11 September.
A Peace Corps statement on its official website said a highly skilled assessment team has been prepared to depart at short notice for Afghanistan.
"Depending on the safety and security situation, Peace Corps is eager to assist in the reconstruction of Afghanistan with the help of Crisis Corps volunteers," the statement added, explaining that these volunteers would likely assist in efforts to address the basic human needs and make life better for Afghans with programmes in health, education and construction.
Voice Of America, US government-funded radio station, said that in the coming months, new Peace Corps volunteers will arrive in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. Peace Corps' new team could expand swiftly, exceeding the number of previous Peace Corps staff in these countries.
As part of that effort, Bush announced plans to double the size of the Peace Corps, which currently has 7,000 volunteers serving in 70 countries.
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