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Afghanistan Must Not Be Terrorist Haven, Says NATO Chief

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen
LONDON (Reuters) -- Western allies need to bolster military training for Afghanistan so it does not become a safe haven for terrorists and can assure its own security, the head of NATO has said.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he shared the concern of the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan about sending more troops to the country, but stressed that the allies must stay the course and commit more to training Afghan forces.

"We are not in Afghanistan to protect and defend a specific government, but to make sure Afghanistan does not once again become a safe haven for terrorists who could easily spread from Afghanistan through Central Asia and further, not to mention the risk of destabilizing Pakistan, a nuclear power, which would create a very dangerous situation," he said.

"I urge all allies to provide resources for this training mission so that the Afghans can eventually take over responsibility for the security themselves," he added.

Rasmussen, in an interview with BBC television after talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, said it had to be made clear to Kabul that good governance, including an effective fight against corruption, was a prerequisite for continued international commitment.

The November 11 editions of "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" quoted senior U.S. officials as saying that U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry had expressed reservations about what was described as President Hamid Karzai's erratic behavior and corruption in his government.

The papers said Eikenberry had sent classified cables to Washington casting doubt on the wisdom of sending more U.S. troops to fight in the eight-year-long war, a move currently being considered by U.S. President Barack Obama.

"I fully agreed with the ambassador that the government in Kabul must fight corruption effectively," Rasmussen said.

However, he added, "We are in Afghanistan for the sake of our own security and therefore we should stay committed and stay for as long as it takes to finish the job."