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NATO Ministers to Scale Back Plans for Rapid Reaction Force

NATO countries, which are being pressed for greater troop contributions in Afghanistan, are scaling back a 2,500-member rapid reaction force that is to respond to international crises.

NATO defense ministers, meeting in the Netherlands, authorized the down-sizing Thursday.

The brainchild of former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the NATO Response Force provides for deploying seasoned troops on five days' notice to crises across the globe.

Analysts say the project was doomed by pressure on NATO members to maintain a 40,000-member troop presence in Afghanistan.

In closed-door sessions Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates pressed NATO ministers to send more soldiers to southern Afghanistan, the scene of the most serious fighting with Taliban forces. Gates also said there is an urgent need for NATO troops to train the Afghan army and provide security for provincial reconstruction teams.

Other NATO discussions Thursday were to focus on Kosovo and on U.S. plans to install a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Washington has in recent weeks floated several proposals aimed at easing Russian concerns about the deployment. But Moscow has shown no public signs of softening its opposition to the missile system, which President Vladimir Putin says will destabilize eastern Europe and trigger a new arms race.

But Russian Defense Minister Anatoli Serdyukov Thursday said the latest proposals have not yet eased his country's concerns on the issue.

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