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Afghanistan needs 4,000 extra soldiers for elections: NATO

Afghanistan needs about 4,000 more soldiers to provide security for its summer elections, the head of NATO said Wednesday during a visit to Kabul.

Afghanistan needs about 4,000 more soldiers to provide security for its summer elections, the head of NATO said Wednesday during a visit to Kabul.

Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said he would like to see NATO provide an extra four battalions — each battalion has about 1,000 soldiers — in advance of the Aug. 20 elections.

De Hoop Scheffer is in the Afghan capital to discuss reconstruction efforts and the deteriorating security situation.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who held a news conference with the NATO leader, said while he appreciated the alliance's military involvement in the fight against terrorism, foreign powers should respect his country's right to govern itself.

"Afghanistan … will never be a puppet state," Karzai said. "The issue of governance and the creation of [a mechanism for] good governance is the work of the Afghan people."

Karzai faces re-election in August, at a time when the country is embroiled in a vicious Taliban-led insurgency, and the performance of his government has been criticized by U.S. President Barack Obama's administration and other Western capitals as inefficient and corrupt.

Karzai said that the international community can only do its job with the Afghan people's support.

"With Afghanistan there should be respect and honour, and we will also respect and honour our allies," Karzai said. "Afghanistan now is the owner of its land and nobody can disrupt our country."

U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates announced earlier this year plans to send roughly 10,000 more American soldiers to Afghanistan. Obama has said Washington will shift its overseas military focus from Iraq to Afghanistan, and he has ordered a review of the mission there.

Roughly 34,000 American troops are already in the country.

Afghan officials announced in January elections would be held on Aug. 20 to allow the country time to boost security and give villagers living in snow-bound mountains better access to voting stations.

Karzai had argued for a spring vote in April, but the country's election commission turned down the request.

More than 2,800 Canadians are in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led mission in the country, with most stationed in the volatile southern Kandahar province.

With files from the Associated Press

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