NATO allies agree to step up efforts to deal with Taleban threat in Afghanistan

Iran Materials 27 January 2007 11:10 (UTC +04:00)

(VOA) - NATO foreign ministers have agreed to seize the initiative in dealing with Taleban forces in Afghanistan.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer says the ministers, meeting in Brussels, pledged additional resources in aiding Afghan reconstruction and development. He said the issue of the dispatch of additional NATO troops will be discussed at an alliance meeting in Seville, Spain, next month.

Earlier, a NATO spokesman said the allies also pledged to step up their cooperation with increased pledges of funding, reports Trend.

He said the meeting welcomed the offer by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of a $10.6 billion aid package for Afghanistan. The aid is intended to bolster Afghan security forces facing increased Taleban attacks.

The European Union Friday announced plans to provide Afghanistan with nearly $780 million in aid over the next four years.

That is 40 percent less than it pledged for the previous four years.

European Commission officials say the bulk of the funding will be spent on government reforms, health and rural development, including ways to tackle the problem of Afghanistan's flourishing narcotics trade.

Earlier this week, the Defense Department said it is adding four months to the tours of duty for 3,500 elite U.S. Army soldiers in Afghanistan. The NATO commander for Afghanistan, General David Richards, said he expects to add another 3,500 troops.

There are currently more than 23,000 U.S. troops and 34,000 NATO troops in the country.