NATO requests more troops for Afghanistan

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Spain likely to send teams to train security forces and army

25 March 2008

MADRID - NATO has requested that all its members increase engagement in Afghanistan, where the Atlantic Alliance currently has over 43,000 troops to oversee the country's reconstruction. For Spain, that will most likely mean sending new instruction teams to help develop the Afghan Security Forces and the Afghan National Army.

NATO's plans for the central Asian country include deploying around 70 Operational Mentor and Liaison Teams (OMLT), of which so far there are fewer than 50 on the ground, including two Spanish teams with 26 instructors each. Another 20 teams are needed, of which six would be destined to the west of the country, where the 700-strong Spanish contingent is currently stationed. Spain has ruled out the possibility of redeploying its troops to the south of Afghanistan, where the Taliban insurgency is strongest, making it likely that its contribution will focus on reinforcing its presence in the west with new instructor teams.

Greater engagement in Afghanistan will be one of the key issues at the NATO summit in Bucharest between 2 and 4 April, when Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and US President George W. Bush are also scheduled to hold their first bilateral meeting since Zapatero pulled Spanish troops from Iraq in 2004.

[Copyright El Pais / MIGUEL GONZÁLEZ 2008]

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