ISAF troops in Afghanistan (file photo) (epa)
PRAGUE, May 4, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Britain today took over command of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, replacing the Italians who have commanded the UN-mandated force for the last nine months.
The new ISAF commander is British Lieutenant General David Richards. He replaces Italian Lieutenant General Mauro.
Britain now has about 1,000 soldiers in Helmand Province. That number is expected to rise to 2,500 by July. Another 1,500 Dutch troops are to boost security in Oruzgan Province by August or September. Canadian soldiers are being deployed in Kandahar Province to take over the security mission previously led by U.S. troops in the anti-terrorism coalition.
ISAF now has about 9,000 foreign soldiers in Afghanistan. It plans to expand to about 21,000 troops by November as it gradually moves into volatile southern provinces where Taliban fighters continue to wage an insurgency.