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Afghan Leader Urges Quick NATO Deployment

Hamid Karzai (file photo) 29 June 2004 -- Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai has asked NATO to send the additional troops promised to his country quickly because "the Afghan people need that security today, not tomorrow."

Speaking at the second and final day of a NATO summit in Istanbul, Karzai said: "From the first day of the interim government 2 and 1/2 years ago until today, the Afghan people keep coming to us and asking for international security forces in their parts of the country, because they see that force as a stabilizing element, as an element to protect them."

Karzai welcomed a commitment made yesterday by NATO to provide more than 3,000 extra troops to help boost security in Afghanistan. Karzai said the move should help his government hold elections, as scheduled in September.

The increase will raise the number of NATO troops available to the International Security Assistance Force to some 10,000. Reports quote officials as saying, however, that not all of these troops will be based in Afghanistan.

NATO also agreed to send military-civilian reconstruction teams to four more cities in northern Afghanistan.

The alliance has declined to say which countries will provide the extra troops, pending parliamentary decisions in some capitals. But NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer assured Karzai that the troops will be provided.