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Afghan army reaches target strength

Afghan army recruitment has met a target of 1,34,000 troops two months ahead of schedule, officials said today, despite a worsening Taliban-led insurgency around the country.

world Updated: Aug 11, 2010 21:50 IST

Afghan army recruitment has met a target of 1,34,000 troops two months ahead of schedule, officials said on Wednesday, despite a worsening Taliban-led insurgency around the country.

The army, backed by billions of dollars from the United States, is aiming to number 1,71,000 troops by late next year, but an October deadline for 1,34,000 has already been met, said defence ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi.

"We are two months ahead of schedule," Azimi said.

Afghanistan, with the help of its Western backers, is trying to rebuild its army and police in a bid to take responsibility for security from US-led NATO forces by 2014.

The Taliban, toppled in a 2001 US-led invasion, still control large swathes of the south and have put up stiff resistance to a surge deploying 1,50,000 foreign troops as part of a counter-insurgency strategy.

The national police currently numbers 1,00,000 with an eventual aim of 1,34,000 personnel.

The commander of the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan hailed the army's growth, saying that the rebuilding of Afghan security forces was the "central element" in the coalition's efforts to stabilise the country.

"It is truly remarkable that we are able to congratulate the defence ministry today for achieving their strength goal for October two months ahead of schedule," US General David Petraeus said in a statement.

On Thursday, President Hamid Karzai's spokesman said all international and domestic private security firms would be dissolved, partly in a bid to transfer their capacity to the Afghan police and army.