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Afghanistan

 

Nato to send more troops to Afghanistan

Richard Norton-Taylor


Nato leaders will announce the deployment of an extra 1,200 troops to Afghanistan at a summit in Istanbul on Monday to help provide security for elections due to be held in September.

They will also agree that Nato should take over the command of five military-civilian reconstruction teams in the north of the country.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the secretary general of Nato, described Afghanistan as his "priority number one" this week.

The UN, the Afghan government and human rights groups have criticised Nato countries for reneging on promises to provide more troops and equipment to the country. They say 5,000 extra troops will be needed.

The New York-based organisation Human Rights Watch said yesterday the allies had "utterly failed" to help improve security around the country, and that requests by Nato commanders for logistical support in the form of additional helicopters and transport aircraft had yet to be fully met by member states.

It also said the alliance should speed up the disarmament of militias. Afghan warlords still command tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of armed men, as well as heavy weaponry, artillery, missiles, and armoured vehicles.

The 6,400-strong Nato-led international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan is restricted to the capital, Kabul.

There are also about 17,000 American combat troops in the country. Some European members of Nato, including Britain, claim the US needs the warlords to help in the fight against the remnants of Taliban or al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan.

They say this is one reason why the Afghan opium poppy harvest is increasing to record levels.

The other is that insufficient investment has been made available to encourage growers - and the warlords linked to them - to plant alternative crops.

A vehicle full of explosives was found at Istanbul airport yesterday, just days ahead of a Nato summit in the city. The discovery came a day after a bomb blast in Istanbul killed four and wounded 21.

 

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KP/27/June/ /2004

Source: The Guardian
 

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