Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cheney time

Nice to see that Vice President Dick Cheney was able to sneak into Afghanistan today to meet with U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai and urge NATO members to commit more troops to the NATO force fighting there. The 43,000-member International Security Assistance Force took over the bulk of the military duties from U.S. forces in 2006, five years after the United States invaded Afghanistan to expel the Taliban and al-Qaida after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. A third of the ISAF troops are from the United States, which also has 13,000 troops in Afghanistan under separate command. "ISAF has made a tremendous difference in the country and America will ask our NATO allies for an even stronger commitment for the future," Cheney told a news conference with Karzai in Kabul, according to the Reuters international news service. The future of ISAF is expected to be a primary topic of a NATO summit next month in Bucharest. The ISAF mission is the first deployment of NATO forces outside Europe and many of the alliance's 26 countries have sharp disagreements about the mission. U.S., British, Canadian and Dutch troops are doing most of the fighting in southern and eastern Afghanistan, while France, Germany and other countries have refused to allow their troops to be send into combat. Also Thursday, the U.N. Security Council voted to extend the mandate of the United Nations' diplomatic mission in Afghanistan. At the Kabul press conference, Karzai argued for expansion of the NATO force. "The continuation of NATO in Afghanistan is very, very important," he said. "As the Afghan National Army gets stronger, there will be less pressure and responsibility on the foreign security forces." Hmm, when have we heard that before?

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