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NATO Secretary-General Urges Continued International Support for Afghanistan Development

Benjamin Sand

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has urged the international community to continue supporting Afghanistan's development. The secretary-general and the organization's senior military commander are in Afghanistan for a series of meetings with the country's top officials. NATO forces are moving into the Taleban's traditional stronghold in the south, where fighting has significantly intensified in recent weeks.

Secretary-General Scheffer met with Afghan and coalition leaders in the Afghan capital Kabul Thursday.

During a joint news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the secretary-general said Afghanistan needs much more support from the international community.

"We have to lift our game [to do better]," he said. "NATO is lifting its game but the international community has to lift its game as well by also showing commitments to the development of Afghanistan. If NATO is creating security and stability, it must be accompanied by the full attention of the international community."

NATO forces are getting ready to take over security operations in southern Afghanistan later this month. Fighting in the volatile region has intensified sharply in recent weeks.

The violence has destabilized the entire region and long promised development projects have been put on hold until the situation improves.

U.S.-led coalition forces are targeting thousands of suspected Taleban insurgents in the area ahead of the planned NATO hand-over.

More than 700 people, mostly militants, have been killed since May, and Taleban insurgents are vowing to maintain the pressure on Western forces.

NATO is increasing its troop levels in Afghanistan from about 10,000 to more than 16,000 as its forces move into the south.

The Western alliance already commands security operations in the relatively stable North and West. Plans are also under way for NATO forces to move into eastern Afghanistan along the Pakistan border.

Speaking alongside the NATO leader Thursday, President Karzai also challenged the international community to help find foreign terrorist networks that may be destabilizing Afghanistan.

U.S. and Afghan officials have repeatedly accused Pakistan of not doing enough to crack down on suspected Taleban and al-Qaida camps in Pakistan's remote tribal areas near the Afghan border.

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