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NATO rolls out 2,000 more troops for Afghan polls

AFP | August 29, 2005

NATO-led peacekeepers have deployed 2,000 extra troops across northern and western Afghanistan to secure the war-battered country's parliamentary elections on September 18, a spokesman said Monday.

The roll-out brings to nearly 11,000 the number of soldiers under the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which has operated under a United Nations mandate since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001.

"It's 2,000 extra forces from ten different NATO nations, bringing infantry, support elements and aircraft into the country to support the build-up to and the conduct of the elections," said ISAF spokesman Major Andy Elmes.

The American military also added a 700-strong battalion to help the ballot, said US spokesman Colonel James Yonts.

During polls, the US-led coalition will have more than 20,000 troops in the country lending support to an estimated 35,000 Afghan army troops and some 80,000 poorly trained policemen.

Attacks by militants linked to the fundamentalist Taliban movement have risen in the run up to the polls, with more than 1,000 people including some election candidates dying so far this year.

Yonts said in addition to the Afghan, US-led and NATO-led forces, Pakistan had also increased its military presence along its troubled frontier with Afghanistan.

Most Taliban attacks occur in provinces that border Pakistan. Afghan and US military officials privately say that the militants are using bases in Pakistan to launch attacks over the border, an accusation Islamabad strongly denies.

Pakistan has more than 70,000 troops along the border, mostly to track down Taliban and Al-Qaeda guerrillas who fled Afghanistan in late 2001. In July it said it had moved in another 4,000 to seal the frontier for the polls.

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