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10,000-15,000 more troops needed in Afghan south: ISAF general

world Updated: Oct 15, 2009 23:38 IST

Between 10,000 and 15,000 more troops are needed to maintain security in restive southern Afghanistan, NATO's commander in the region told AFP in an interview on Thursday.

"In RC (regional command) south, to really complete the 'shape, clear, hold, build,' we need at least two additional brigades of coalition forces, somewhere between 10,000 or 15,000 troops," said Major General Mart de Kruif.

The additional troops include support units for the brigades, the Dutch officer added.

"Since we deployed the US forces, at the regional level, it's very clear that the initiative switched to our side," said de Kruif, commander of almost 40,000 International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) soldiers in the south.

But he said "we absolutely need additional forces" to clear other areas in the south, such as troubled Helmand province.

De Kruif was speaking as US President Barack Obama mulls whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, in addition to the 21,000 deployed in recent months, mainly to the Taliban strongholds of Helmand and Kandahar.

The commander of the 100,000-strong US and NATO force, US General Stanley McChrystal, has reportedly asked for up to 40,000 more troops to combat an increasingly bloody insurgency that is spreading nationwide.

De Kruif said the additional troops were required in populated areas to counter the potential for Taliban influence to spread.