News / USA

NATO to Command US Troops in Afghanistan

A top U.S. military official says U.S. forces in Afghanistan are undergoing a major restructuring that will bring virtually all American troops under NATO command.

Vice Admiral Greg Smith, the top U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, says U.S. troops serving in eastern Afghanistan as part of the Operation Enduring Freedom command will soon be integrated into the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ordered the reorganization before traveling to Kabul last week, Smith said, adding the reorganization will not change the number of troops deployed in Afghanistan.

In another significant shift, NATO's top commander, U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, said he has brought most U.S. Special Operations forces in the country under his direct command.  

Afghan officials have complained that Special Operations troops are responsible for a large number of civilian casualties, and they have pressed McChrystal to restrict their night-time combat missions.

In an interview published Tuesday in The New York Times, McChrystal said the realignment should improve coordination among all military units in Afghanistan.  

Meanwhile, officials say Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. President Barack Obama held a video conference to discuss prospects of peace with the Taliban.

A statement from Mr. Karzai's office says the two men spoke for more than an hour Monday night, and that the Afghan leader briefed Mr. Obama on Afghan efforts to speed up the peace and reconciliation process and purge corruption.

U.S. commanders say reaching a political settlement between the Afghan government and Taliban fighters is critical for reducing violence.

The Afghan statement says Mr. Karzai told President Obama Afghans are concerned their country will be used for "proxy wars" between nations.  Last week, Mr. Karzai said he was concerned about the possibility that Afghanistan might become directly involved in potential conflict between Pakistan and India, or between the United States and Iran.

Some information for this report provided by AP.

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