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Afghanistan: NATO Takes Over Command Of Security Force

Kabul, 11 August 2003 (RFE/RL) -- NATO has taken command of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan's capital Kabul and the surrounding province. Germany and the Netherlands handed over control of the force to NATO in a ceremony in Kabul today.

The handover to NATO marks the first time the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has headed a security operation outside Europe since the alliance was created 54 years ago.

NATO spokesman Mark Laity said the NATO-led international force will have "the same mission, same mandate, same banner" as the previous mission.

Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai has repeatedly called for the international security force -- comprised of 5,000 troops from some 30 countries -- to be expanded elsewhere in the country to deal with instability.

Yesterday, Laity said it is "premature" to talk about expanding the multinational force, but said a debate on the issue appears "inevitable."

NATO takes over responsibility for the security force one day after the United Nations said it is suspending missions in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar due to a series of attacks on aid workers and nongovernmental organizations. A UN spokesman said there currently are no missions operating in the Uruzgan and Zabul provinces.