NATO forces to cover whole Afghanistan in two years: officer

KABUL, Jul 18, 2005 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will expend its responsibilities in southern Afghanistan in early 2006, and hopes to take responsibility of the whole country in two years, a NATO official has said.

When NATO assumes responsibility for the who country, some US troops will continue to stay and operate in Afghanistan, Lieut. Gen. Ethem Erdagi, the Turkish commander of ISAF in Afghanistan said Sunday.

The NATO-led ISAF in Afghanistan commands more than 8,000 soldiers from 37 countries, with the task of supporting the Afghan government in safeguarding national security, and establishing national institutions in accordance with the Bonn Agreement.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) assumed leadership of the ISAF mission in August 2003. Afghanistan is the military alliance's first ever mission outside the Euro-Atlantic area.

ISAF has taken the authority of north and west of Afghanistan respectively early this year, and it will expand to the south in the spring of 2006, and then to the east, in a counter-clockwise motion throughout the country.

In order to guarantee safety for the upcoming parliamentary election in September, ISAF has deployed eight F-16 fighter jets from Belgium and the Netherlands as part of additional ISAF Election Support Forces.

Over 2,000 Election Support Forces are to assist the Afghan government in maintaining security, and advance parties of the contingent from Romania and the Netherlands have begun arriving in Afghanistan.

Soldiers from Canada's elite troop unit the Joint Task Force ( JTF-2) will be heading to Afghanistan to join the fight against al- Qaeda remnants, the Canadian Television reported Friday.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard announced Wednesday that a special task force of some 150 troops was expected to be in place by September, when the war-torn country is due to hold legislative elections.

At the same time, a US-dominated Coalition force with about 18, 000 troops, has stayed in Afghanistan since the collapse of the former Taliban regime to cleanse the remains of Taliban and al- Qaeda throughout the country.

Taliban has waged a surge of violence against Afghan and foreign troops since the beginning of this spring with the aim of derailing the September 18 election. Dozens of militants have been killed recently by Afghan and Coalition troops.