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US Offers Armored Vehicles to Allies in Afghanistan

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told NATO allies Friday the United States will provide them with heavily armored vehicles and advanced technology to help protect their troops in Afghanistan from the increasing use of roadside bombs by the Taliban and related groups.

Secretary Gates says with U.S. troops preparing to leave Iraq in large numbers later this year, many of the new mine-resistant vehicles called MRAPs will become available, and the United States is prepared to sell, lend or give them to allies for their troops in Afghanistan. In addition, Gates said the United States will provide other capabilities to fight the roadside bombs, too.

"Today I told our allies that going forward the United States will be able to offer them intelligence, training and equipment, including jammers, route clearance robots, surveillance systems and ground-penetrating radars," he announced.

The most advanced U.S. vehicles, the M-ATVs, designed specifically for Afghanistan, are only available in small numbers and will only go to American troops for now. But U.S. officials say some versions of the heavier MRAP are suitable for some regions of Afghanistan.

Secretary Gates dismissed concerns about the cost of providing the vehicles, saying allies need to do all they can to help each other.

The secretary also thanked the allies for providing, according to U.S. officials, nearly 9,000 additional troops for Afghanistan to help implement President Barack Obama's revised strategy.

"General McChrystal will soon have nearly all the combat forces he asked for. However more trainers are needed, and needed immediately. I pressed the alliance to meet the long-standing demand for more instructors and mentors for the Afghan Army and Police," said the US defense secretary.

But both Gates and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called on allies to provide more trainers and mentors to work with the growing Afghan Army and Police forces. The trainers work mainly in academies, but the mentors are needed to stay with the Afghan units after they deploy, to help guide them through their first months of operations.