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UPDATED: 09:44, January 27, 2007
More international support for Afghanistan's reconstruction: NATO chief
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The NATO allies and the wider international community have pledged to redouble efforts to stabilize and rebuild Afghanistan, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on Friday.

Both the NATO members and other international organizations had reiterated their commitments of more support for the Afghan government, its national army and police, de Hoop Scheffer said after a meeting of NATO foreign ministers and a separate meeting of major role players in Afghanistan at NATO headquarters here.

"The message has been clear: the international community intends to keep the initiative in Afghanistan," he said.

The meeting on Afghanistan was attended by representatives from NATO member states, non-NATO contributors to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, the Untied Nations, the World Bank, and the European Union (EU).

"The international community is stepping up its game in Afghanistan on all fronts to reinforce success," the secretary general said.

"But we also have to underline that it is a long-term commitment by the international community, for the implementation of which we need a comprehensive approach," he said.

The new pledges made by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the meeting triggered other nations to do more for Afghanistan, he said without elaborating.

But he refused to speculate which countries would contribute more troops to Afghanistan, saying the specifics are to be discussed when NATO defense ministers hold informal meetings in Sevilla, Spain, on February 8-9.

"I'm relatively optimistic that more nations will step forward," he said.

The Pentagon announced on Thursday it was extending the tours of 3,200 troops in Afghanistan by up to 120 days. Separately, Rice announced that the Bush administration would ask U.S. Congress for an extra 8.6 billion U.S. dollars to train and equip the Afghan army and police, and 2 billion dollars for reconstruction.

The UN-mandated ISAF comprises 32,000 soldiers drawn from 37 nations. The force includes about 12,000 U.S. and about 6,000 British soldiers. The U.S. has an additional 12,000 military personnel in the country under separate command as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

NATO, which assumed overall command from the United States last year, is in Afghanistan to help the authorities there provide security, and to assist with governance and the reconstruction of facilities such as dams, bridges and roads.

The NATO forces are also training Afghan policemen and soldiers, who are unable to hold captured areas on their own.

Source: Xinhua

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