NATO to send over 10,000 extra troops to Afghanistan
AFP | October 6, 2005
NATO will send more than 10,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, the 26-nation group's Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Thursday, which would double its force in the insurgency-hit country.
The expansion of the NATO-lead International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) into the volatile southern part of the country "will of course lead to the arrival of certainly a few thousand extra NATO forces," he told reporters.
"I can't give you the exact numbers, but you may say it will be well over 10,000, between 13 and 14, 15,000," he said after talks with President Hamid Karzai.
The ISAF force has been in Afghanistan since late 2001, shortly after the toppling of the hardline Islamic Taliban regime, and came under NATO control in 2003. It currently numbers about 10,000 troops.
At the moment the force ensures security in the capital Kabul and across parts of northern and western provinces but it is due to move into the southern part of Afghanistan next year.
A 20,000-strong US-led force is currently in the south to tackle a rising insurgency by the Taliban and to hunt Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. This has been the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since 2001.
De Hoop Scheffer and NATO ambassadors were in Afghanistan for talks on finalising the planned expansion of ISAF, amid reports that some NATO members including Germany and France are concerned about ISAF's mandate.
ISAF troops, unlike their US-led counterparts, do not undertake counter-insurgency operations.
"At the end of day of course it will be one operation in one country led by NATO," De Hoop Scheffer said.
"But we are not in that stage, we are in the stage that we have an ISAF operation, we are in the stage that we have Operation Enduring Freedom, a coalition operation," he added.
NATO-led peacekeepers played a vital role in ensuring security for last month's parliamentary polls, results of which will start being released Thursday, and the October 2004 presidential election.
British defence secretary John Reid said Tuesday that his country, a key NATO member, was to send extra troops to Afghanistan but the precise number has yet to be decided.
Speaking after visiting Afghanistan, he said that a previously reported figure of 4,000 extra British soldiers was incorrect. Britain currently has around 900 troops there.
"But it is right that we will be sending further troops, because we've always agreed we will take over the headquarters from the Italians next year of the ISAF mission there," he told the BBC.
Last modified October 7, 2005