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UN Approves Expanded Peacekeeping Force in Afghanistan - 2003-10-14

The United Nations Security Council has voted to extend the mandate of NATO-led troops in Afghanistan beyond the capital, Kabul. The vote follows a request from NATO earlier this month for permission to deploy peacekeepers outside Kabul. The Security Council voted unanimously to allow international troops to move into the troubled countryside.

Afghan officials have repeatedly asked that the International Security Assistance Force, or I-SAF, be allowed to move out to areas beyond Kabul. Earlier this month, NATO asked for authorization from the U-N Security Council for expansion of the I-SAF mission, which the alliance has commanded since August.

There has been a resurgence of guerrilla attacks by suspected Taleban militants in areas of rural Afghanistan in recent months.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte says the expansion of security forces is crucial. "This resolution helps pave the way for the increased security in Afghanistan, upon which nearly everything else is dependent," he said.

Germany, one of the main contributors to the current force, is among the countries, which may send several hundred additional troops to Afghanistan. German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger says he hopes the operation will set a precedent.

"Given parliamentary approval, we will then send additional soldiers to Afghanistan to form what we call an I-SAF island outside of Kabul to improve security in the northern part of Afghanistan. If this is successful, it would be considered a pilot project to be copied in other areas outside of Afghanistan," he said.

Over 5,000 I-SAF troops are currently stationed in Afghanistan. NATO military planners have asked for two-thousand to 10-thousand more.

Mr. Negroponte says the United States had at first been reluctant to support sending troops outside of Kabul, without sufficient international support.

"We proceeded cautiously on this, I think in part because there was an absence of countries that were willing to undertake such missions outside of Kabul. Now, NATO had taken this force over, and there is a willingness, at least to a limited extent, to undertake missions outside Kabul, and in that context we were willing to support such a resolution," he said.

The Security Council hopes that a safer environment will enable President Hamid Karzai's Transitional Administration to anchor its authority in Afghanistan.