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NATO To Expand Presence In Afghanistan

Brussels, 8 December 2005 (RFE/RL) -- NATO foreign ministers will today formally endorse an expansion of NATO's peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan, a spokesman for the alliance says.

NATO spokesman James Apparthurai said a decision to endorse a revised operational plan for the NATO-led stabilization force, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), is imminent. The changes, which “will take place in the coming year,” will leave NATO with a presence in three-quarters of the country. “Several thousand troops” will be sent into southern Afghanistan and “four provincial  reconstruction teams [will be] added to the nine presently under NATO command," Apparthurai said.

NATO will also play a more active role in supporting the Afghan army and police, the NATO spokesman added.

After the extension of the ISAF’s operations into the south, NATO troops will have more "robust" rules of engagement and will be clearly authorized to defend themselves when attacked.

In his opening address at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels on 8 December, NATO's Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the alliance will "stay the course" in Afghanistan and called on other international actors to remain equally committed.

He said an upcoming donors' conference in London on 31 January and 1 February, dubbed the "Kabul Compact," will provide an opportunity focus for the international community to reaffirm its commitment to Afghanistan.

Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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