NATO to deploy troops beyond Kabul

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has agreed to broaden a "peacekeeping" force in Afghanistan beyond the capital Kabul, with Germany taking the lead.

    Currently confined to the capital, ISAF boasts 5300 troops

    Diplomats said on Monday that NATO chief George Robertson would contact UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to confirm the organisation's willingness to extend the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

    The 5300-strong force, which has been led by NATO since August, is currently confined to Kabul.

    Beyond the Afghan capital, lawlessness reigns in large parts of the Central Asian country.

    Silence procedure

    The decision was taken by the so-called silence procedure, under which NATO states had been given until 10:00 (07:00 GMT) to lodge any objections to the agreement.

    The silence was not broken, and therefore agreement was confirmed.

    The Taliban are regrouping in
    southern Afghanistan 

    A NATO official said the decision was twofold - agreement for

    Germany to take command of a "Provincial Reconstruction Team" (PRT) in Kunduz, and agreement "in principle to the

    expansion of the ISAF mission beyond Kabul". 


    ISAF has been deployed in Kabul since December 2001. It was set up weeks after the defeat of the Taliban to control the capital.


    Twenty months on, Afghanistan's provinces are troubled by

    in-fighting between rival commanders and an intensified insurgency by fighters loyal to the Taliban.

    One of the scenarios under consideration at NATO is to send

    between 2000 and 10,000 troops to other Afghan cities, and to multiply the number of "Provincial Reconstruction Teams" (PRTs) already

     active in several regions.

    The PRTs were set up under the leadership of the United States, whose troops are engaged in a separate hunt for al-Qaida and Taliban fighters, as a means of extending the Western security blanket to zones outside Kabul.



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