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NATO Agrees to Lead Allies in All Afghanistan


PORTOROZ, Slovenia, Sept. 28 -- NATO agreed Thursday to take command of military operations across all of insurgency-hit Afghanistan next month after the United States pledged to transfer 12,000 American troops in the country to the NATO force.

Pentagon officials said the transfer of troops currently in Afghanistan's eastern region would result in the biggest deployment of U.S. forces under foreign command since World War II.

Afghanistan is experiencing a level of violence not seen since extremist Islamic Taliban rulers were ousted in 2001.

Militant attacks in eastern Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan, have tripled in some areas, the U.S. military said Thursday, despite a peace agreement on the Pakistani side meant to end the violence.

The NATO accord came as European nations failed to plug all troop shortfalls identified by commanders battling the Taliban insurgency. As a result of the accord, the United States will provide 14,000 of the approximately 32,000 NATO troops that will be under British command. About 2,000 of the U.S. troops were already serving in the NATO force.

"I am grateful that the United States has decided to bring its forces under ISAF," Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told reporters after a NATO meeting in Slovenia, referring to NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

"It should not be used as an argument that we can now rest on our laurels," he added, urging other allies to come forward with extra troops for the more dangerous south.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said it was "perfectly understandable" if other NATO allies restricted where their troops could operate but added that such restrictions undermined NATO's flexibility on the ground.

The Taliban resurgence has soured relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, crucial allies in the U.S.-led war against Islamic militants.

The two countries have agreed to tighten security cooperation and to hold meetings of tribal leaders to encourage them to pursue militants, Afghanistan's ambassador in Washington said Thursday.

Ambassador Said T. Jawad, providing details of a dinner at the White House on Wednesday that was attended by the Afghan and Pakistani presidents, said Pakistan had agreed to take action against militants based on Afghan intelligence.

"Pakistan agreed that if it is provided with specific demands, names or lists of targets that it will comply," Jawad said in a brief interview.

The Afghan government has expressed anger at the support available to the resurgent Taliban in Pakistan and is suspicious of a peace agreement struck in Pakistan this month.

The pact is intended to end violence by pro-Taliban militants in Pakistan's North Waziristan border region and choke off cross-border attacks in Afghanistan.

But the number of attacks on the Afghan side of the mountainous border, in the provinces of Paktika and Khost, has risen since the pact was signed, the U.S. military said.

"There has been an increase in activity, certainly along the border region, especially in the southeast areas across from North Waziristan," said Air Force Lt. Col. John Paradis, a military spokesman.

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