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NATO Defense Ministers Expand Alliance Operations in Afghanistan

Defense ministers of the 26 NATO countries have agreed to formally give the alliance command of operations in eastern Afghanistan.

The decision, at a meeting in the Slovenian seaside resort of Portoroz, transfers to NATO command about 10,000 U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan and puts the alliance in charge of peacekeeping operations throughout the country.

The move comes as the alliance seeks to fend off surprisingly strong resistance by Taleban militants in the area and respond to calls by NATO commanders for additional troops to help deal with the situation. Poland has responded, offering to send about 1,000 new troops by early next year.

NATO has been expanding its operations in Afghanistan since U.S.-led troops ousted the Taleban in 2001.

The alliance first moved into the north and west of Afghanistan, setting up civilian-military reconstruction teams to improve infrastructure and the economy while providing security.

In a related development, German lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a year-long extension of their country's military mission in Afghanistan. Germany has 2,700 troops in the NATO-led mission.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.