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Rumsfeld Denies Big U.S. Troop Cuts In Afghanistan

Donald Rumsfeld (file photo) 14 September 2005 -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today played down reports that Washington plans to cut troop levels in Afghanistan.

Rumsfeld made his remarks during the second day of a NATO defense ministers meeting in Berlin. The meeting focused on the deployment of NATO and U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.

Rumsfeld said the United States will maintain a strong presence in Afghanistan. He said reports that Washington plans to cut its troops levels in Afghanistan by 20 percent are not true.

Speaking after the meeting, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said that NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan need to forge closer ties.

"They [International Security Assistance Force and U.S. operations in Afghanistan] must cooperate more closely and they must therefore make the appropriate arrangements for this greater synergy," de Hoop Scheffer said. "With those principles in mind and with the consensus that this synergy is necessary, we, as I said, continue our discussions on the details, for instance, of the command arrangements necessary for this greater synergy. But let me underline, we have a shared way forward here."

French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said yesterday that the two missions must not be put under one central command.