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Denmark, Latvia and Germany Strengthening Support for Afghanistan

Key nations allied with Afghanistan announced this month that they would be strengthening their missions in the country. On September 14, Denmark’s Ministry of Defense announced that it would deploy an extra 100 soldiers to the southern Afghanistan province of Helmand in October, bringing the total number of troops to 520. The Danes have been given responsibility for patrolling the cities of Laskhar Gar and Gereskh, the two largest cities in the province. Denmark serves under British command in Afghanistan. The extra troops will allow the Danish army to directly engage rebel Taliban forces, according to an Army spokesman.

On September 12, Latvian Defense Minister Atis Slakteris announced that Latvia will increase its military presence in Afghanistan to 150-200 troops in 2008. There are 95 Latvian contract soldiers and two policemen in Afghanistan at the moment. Latvian President Valdis Zatlers visited troops currently stationed in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif while visiting Afghanistan this month.

Also on September 12, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged Germany's full support for peacekeeping in Afghanistan.

"I warn against the suggestion that we could leave Operation Enduring Freedom," Merkel said in a speech to the Bundestag lower house of parliament. "As long as the danger persists, the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) stabilization mission must continue to be supported by Operation Enduring Freedom."

The German parliament is expected this month to extend the mandate of the NATO-led ISAF mission, featuring about 3,000 German troops. A new mandate for six German Tornado reconnaissance jets operating in Afghanistan is also expected to pass.

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