Friday, October 6, 2006

NATO Extends Mission To All of Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan -- NATO took over eastern Afghanistan from U.S.-led forces, assuming control of 12,000 American troops and extending its military role to the entire country.

The commander of the NATO-led force, British Gen. David Richards, who was promoted to a four-star general Thursday, called the move "historic" in a ceremony also attended by President Hamid Karzai and U.S. Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry.

The United States is the biggest contributor to the 31,000-strong, 37-nation NATO mission. Britain has 5,200 troops and Germany has 2,750.

Eikenberry will continue to command about 8,000 U.S. troops functioning outside NATO who are tracking al-Qaeda fighters, helping train Afghan security forces and doing reconstruction work.

Eikenberry said consolidating the command under Richards streamlines the mission's effectiveness. It confines direct U.S. control to a single chief enclave: the sprawling base at Bagram. Most air operations in the Afghan theater also remain under U.S. oversight.

U.S.-operated prisons and interrogation centers at Bagram will remain under U.S. command, while NATO will continue to transfer its detainees to Afghan police.

The alliance's troops took command of southern Afghanistan two months ago and have struggled to stem rising violence there. NATO also has troops in the north and west and patrols the capital, Kabul.

The NATO takeover, which came months ahead of schedule, caps an already historic expansion of missions for the alliance.

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· LONDON -- London police excused a Muslim officer from standing guard at the Israeli Embassy, but insisted the decision was based on his safety rather than personal beliefs. The Sun newspaper reported that Alexander Omar Basha's request came because of moral objections to Israel's bombing of Lebanon.

· BRUSSELS -- The European Commission backed new aviation security rules that will restrict the amount of liquids passengers may take on planes. The measures, due to take effect in November, will allow toiletry items such as toothpaste, contact lens solution and perfume onboard but not large drink containers, except those purchased after security checks.

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