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Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says one of NATO's most important missions now is in Afghanistan.

She says the alliance must work to help ensure the country does not become a safe haven for the Taliban and al-Qaida.

Albright commented Thursday in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is discussing the future of the Western-backed alliance.  The former secretary of state has been leading a panel of experts evaluating NATO's mission.

The committee's chairman, Senator John Kerry, a Democrat from the northeastern state of Massachusetts, just returned from Afghanistan where he met with President Hamid Karzai.

Kerry told the committee he saw "firsthand NATO's single largest present day commitment."  He also said while questions remain about the future of the Afghan mission, the confidence in the "idea and the cohesion of NATO remains strong."

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called for greater engagement in Afghanistan, saying the battle against insurgents is the most complex challenge the alliance has faced.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama is considering a new strategy in Afghanistan, including a request from the top NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, to increase the number of troops in the country.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.