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UN extends NATO-led Afghan force role beyond Kabul
( 2003-10-14 09:28) (Agencies)

The Security Council on Monday authorized the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Afghanistan to send troops anywhere in the country rather than keep them confined to the capital, Kabul, and its environs.

A resolution approved unanimously by the 15-nation council expanded the scope of the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, mission so it could provide security across the central Asian nation, a change long sought by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the United Nations.

But the measure, which also renews the ISAF's U.N. mandate for another year, is likely to have little immediate impact as few countries are willing to commit troops at this time.

"This resolution helps pave the way for the increased security in Afghanistan on which everything else is dependent," said U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, the Security Council president for October.

While Washington was initially cool to the idea, it changed its mind after NATO took the ISAF command on Aug. 11, he said.

The first new troops in rural Afghanistan are expected to come from Germany, which has said it wants to send up to 450 soldiers to the northern district of Kunduz to form a Provincial Reconstruction Team, a group of aid workers under military protection.

Germany agreed to do so only if its soldiers were a part of the NATO mission and not the U.S. force in Afghanistan of some 12,500 soldiers that is trying to track down al Qaeda and Taliban militants in the south.


The U.S. forces are those that remain in the country nearly two years after the United States invaded Afghanistan to topple its Taliban rulers after the Sept. 11, 2001, hijack attacks.

Washington blamed Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network for the attacks and accused the Taliban of providing them with a safe haven.

But the Taliban has stepped up its military activity in recent months. More than 300 people, including aid workers, U.S. soldiers and many Taliban guerrillas, have been killed in violence across the country since early August.

Relief groups and U.N. staffers, in particular, have raised alarms over what they see as a trend of rising armed attacks on humanitarian workers in the Afghan provinces, which are largely under the control of a patchwork of feuding warlords.

Council members initially hesitant to send the multinational peacekeeping force into the provinces have now changed their minds, in hopes improved security would help Karzai's shaky Afghan Transitional Administration expand its authority across the country.

NATO agreed in principle last week to take the force beyond the capital. NATO Secretary-General George Robertson then wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to request a wider Security Council mandate for the 5,500-strong ISAF.

But Robertson said that taking the peacekeeping operation into the provinces would have to wait until NATO members, many of them militarily overstretched, offered the needed troops.

NATO military planners last month proposed various options for expanding the peacekeeping mission, suggesting additional forces of between 2,000 and 10,000 would be needed.

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