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Italy Takes Command of NATO-led Peacekeepers in Afghanistan

Italy has taken over control of the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Afghanistan for the next six months from a Turkish commander.

Italian Lieutenant-General Mauro Del Vechchio assumed command of the 8,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from Turkish Lieutenant-General Ethem Erdagi in Thursday ceremony in Kabul.

The commander of NATO forces in Northern Europe, General Gerhard Back, said ISAF will be ready to assume responsibility for security across all of Afghanistan by the end of next year.

ISAF already maintains security in Kabul and the country's north and west. It plans to increase its size and take over from the U.S.-led coalition in the volatile south early next year, before gradually moving into the east.

NATO peacekeepers will also provide security for the Afghan parliamentary elections scheduled for September 18.