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NATO to finish Afghan expansion by Nov

General Jones said that a 21,000 strong NATO-led force will assume responsibility for security over all Afghanistan by November.

india Updated: Mar 07, 2006 14:23 IST
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A 21,000 strong NATO-led force will assume responsibility for security over all Afghanistan by November, absorbing US troops in the country's volatile eastern region, NATO's supreme commander said.

General James Jones said the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will add the US sector in the east after it completes its current expansion into southern Afghanistan.

The move will effectively shift responsibility for overall security in Afghanistan from the US to NATO, while at the same time keeping a smaller US force in country for counter-terrorism missions.

"At the end of the day, when International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) takes over in Afghanistan, it will be roughly a 21,000-man force from 36 different nations," he said.

Jones said he expected ISAF's expansion to enter its final phase by the next NATO summit in Riga November 28-29.

When it does a US two star general reporting to both ISAF's NATO commander and the US Central Command will be put in charge of ISAF's security operations nationwide and separate US counter-terrorism operations, Jones said.

"He will have two hats," Jones said. "In his NATO hat, he will be working for the NATO commander, and he will be in charge of security writ large," he said.

"In his CENTCOM hat, he will be working for General Abizaid and he will be directing the more offensive operations; for instance, along the border or wherever you need to go after to continue the search for bin Laden and those things.

"So that's the only slight distinction, but it'll be a much more cohesive effort and we will essentially have one headquarters.