Karzai requests an expansion of NATO Afghanistan force

AFP , KABUL

Sun, Feb 08, 2004 - Page 6

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday that Afghanistan would appreciate any expansion of the NATO-led peacekeeping force in the country, considered vital for the reconstruction of the war-ravaged nation.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was formed shortly after the fall of the hard-line Taliban regime in 2001.

So far ISAF has limited its activities mainly to providing security in Kabul.

In December ISAF expanded its force outside the capital for the first time, sending some 200 German soldiers to work with a civil-military provincial reconstruction team (PRT) in the quiet northern city of Kunduz.

"The expansion of the ISAF, or the expansion of the operation that NATO has now taken over, especially in the PRT, is very, very important for the improvement of reconstruction activity of Afghanistan and also for better security," Karzai said at the presidential palace.

"So we value whatever decision they take in this regard."

NATO defense ministers meeting informally in Munich, Germany on Friday have agreed to a modest increase in the scope of ISAF, officials said.

The US has pressed its NATO allies to take a larger role in Afghanistan and Iraq, leading to several countries offering to work with provincial reconstruction teams under ISAF.

No information on what countries stepped forward and where the teams would be deployed was provided.