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NATO Will Expand Security Forces in Afghanistan

08 December 2005

Alliance forces will be operating in three-quarters of the country

By Merle D. Kellerhals Jr.
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- NATO foreign ministers agreed December 8 to expand the alliance's International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan by deploying 6,000 more troops into the southern region, according to a NATO communiqué.

"When the expansion takes place next year, it will mean NATO is operating in three-quarters of the territory of Afghanistan," Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said during a press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

"Afghanistan remains our focus as we help this country to build its future, expanding our NATO presence throughout the country."

De Hoop Scheffer said that NATO's engagement there has been instrumental in the progress that has been achieved.

The 26-nation alliance is completing a two-day foreign ministers meeting.

"We are committed to the continuing success of the U.N.-mandated, NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in all its aspects and have today [December 8] agreed to move NATO's support for peace and security in Afghanistan to a new level," the NATO communiqué said.

The NATO-led security force, whose focus is peace and stability operations, has approximately 9,000 troops from 36 countries stationed in the Afghan capital, Kabul, and the relatively calm northern and western regions.  NATO took command of that security force in 2003, two years after a U.S.-led coalition overthrew the Taliban regime.

The U.S.-led security force currently operates in the southern and eastern regions of Afghanistan searching for terrorists and remnants of the Taliban army under the command of "Operation Enduring Freedom."

NATO said it will station an additional 6,000 troops into the southern region beginning in early 2006.  The objective is to give NATO more scope in helping local Afghan military and police forces with training and other security tasks such as disarming illegal armed groups.

NATO said that the United Kingdom, Canada and the Netherlands are scheduled to lead the expansion into the south.

Some of the forces operating in Afghanistan work under different rules of engagement, which means some engage only in logistical support while others provide combat troops, NATO said.

According to the communiqué, NATO will:

• Assist the Afghan government in extending its authority;

• Conduct stability and security operations in coordination with Afghan national security forces;

• Mentor and support the Afghan army to increase its capability and reach;

• Support Afghan government efforts to disarm illegally armed groups;

• Operate and maintain security for Kabul International Airport;

• Assist the Afghan National Police with training and in their interaction with the national army;

• Advise and support the Afghan government on border security strategy;

• Support Afghan government counternarcotics efforts; and

• Assist with other key elements of security-sector reform, in close cooperation with the G8 [Group of Eight most industrialized] nations.

The communiqué also said NATO will work to assist Afghan authorities in implementing internationally accepted standards for prisoner detention.

Finally, De Hoop Scheffer said NATO has agreed to develop a long-term program of support to Afghanistan at the request of President Hamid Karzai. The program will focus on helping authorities with defense and security sector reforms.

The entire NATO communiqué is available on the NATO Web site.

For information on U.S. policy, see International Security and Rebuilding Afghanistan.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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