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NATO Troops Get Freer Hand On Force In Afghanistan --> NATO forces in Afghanistan will reportedly have more leeway to act (file photo) 11 August 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Governments contributing NATO peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan have decided to give those soldiers a freer hand in the use of force.

The change in policy comes as NATO has begun increasing the number of troops in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan to 8,500 from 6,500 to provide extra security for the presidential election whose first round is slated for 9 October.

NATO Supreme Allied Commander General James Jones of the U.S. Marines, told a news conference in Kabul today that NATO members now realize that restricting forces hinders their effectiveness.

"Nations are starting to understand that overly restricting forces has the opposite effect of safeguarding forces," Jones said. "In fact, I honestly believe it puts forces at risk, because the opposition knows full well what the forces are capable of -- [what they are] able to do or not able to do. And so if they wish to attack us, they will attack the forces that have the most caveats."

Previously, so-called national caveats barred peacekeepers from engaging in combat or other life-threatening situations.

But Jones said French Lieutenant-General Jean-Louis Py, who took control of ISAF on 9 August, would have a much freer hand to use force.