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NATO Chief Backs Larger Afghan Force through 2018

Posted at: 03/05/2013 10:34 AM

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LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan (AP) - NATO's chief is embracing a proposal to keep 352,000 Afghans in uniform through 2018 - about 122,000 more than originally planned.

Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told The Associated Press that keeping the Afghan force larger for longer is cost effective. Also, it's more acceptable to Afghans than deploying foreign forces.

He met Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul Tuesday, then talked to the AP while visiting troops in Helmand province.

Afghan officials have welcomed the idea, but cash-strapped NATO members, including the U.S., must figure out who would cover the increased expense - from $4.1 billion annually to an estimated $4.8 billion.

Fogh Rasmussen says he expects a decision this summer, part of determining how many NATO troops to deploy after 2014, when NATO turns security over to local forces.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)