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NATO to send 10,000 extra troop to Afghanistan

(with photos) BRUSSELS, June 12 (KUNA) -- NATO Defense Ministers agreed here Friday to send extra troops to Afghanistan for security during upcoming elections and to continue anti-piracy naval operation off the coast of Somalia.
"We have generated the forces we need for the elections in Afghanistan. Between 8,000 to 10,000 troops overall are being deployed in the country," NATO Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer told a press conference after the defense ministers' meeting.
Presidential elections in Afghanistan are scheduled to be held on August 20.
The ministers of the 28-member Alliance also agreed to create a new military headquarters for NATO's mission in Afghanistan and to deploy AWACS planes to assist with air traffic control in Afghanistan, he said.
They also agreed to the establishment of a NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan for security forces.
NATO has 60,000 troops under its ISAF mission on the ground and "it will keep growing," Scheffer added.
He said the role of Iran in Afghanistan was not discussed in Friday's meeting, but added "Iran is an important neighbor of Afghanistan and if you talk about regional solutions, Iran should be involved." Moreover, the ministers agreed to deploy a longer-term mission off the coast of Somalia. "NATO will continue to play its role in the fight against piracy," he stressed.
NATO's anti-piracy operation off Somalia launched in November was to end this month.
Earlier, addressing the meeting of NATO Defense Ministers with non-NATO ISAF Contributing Nations, Scheffer said "enemies of Afghanistan are killing civilians, burning schools and attacking soldiers and police officers. And development is not taking root as fast as we would like or as we would hope." Today's ministerial meeting was the last chaired by Scheffer. Former Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen will take the place of outgoing Scheffer as new NATO secretary general in August.
On his part, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the meeting that Afghanistan is the alliance's highest priority.
He also presented US Army General Stanley McChrystal, the new commander of NATO and allied forces in Afghanistan, to the NATO defense ministers.
The two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers and 22 partner nations focused on Afghanistan, anti-piracy and the situation in Kosovo. (end) nk.hb KUNA 121825 Jun 09NNNN