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25 April 2024

Rice, Miliband on surprise visit to Afghanistan

By Agencies


US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband arrived in Afghanistan on a surprise visit Thursday, an AFP correspondent travelling with them said.

The visit comes after Rice and her British counterpart stepped up calls for NATO allies to provide more troops, sayin that the alliance faced a full-blown counter-insurgency battle against Taliban rebels.

"Frankly I hope that there will be more troop contributions and there need to be more Afghan contributions," Rice told reporters travelling with the pair.

When asked what would happen if other NATO countries failed to contribute, she added: "In the final analysis, you will see more troop contributions."

"The problem is we have to make sure they are the right troop contributions and in the right place," Rice added.

"It is not an overwhelming number of forces being sought here -- this is a troop contribution level that NATO can meet and should meet."

Rice said that US Defence Secretary Robert Gates would be working on building troop contributions at a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Vilnius on Thursday.

The visit comes the week after Germany rebuffed US calls for more troops in the battle-scarred south, the scene of most of the fighting against the Islamist Taliban militia, in a tiff played out publicly.

Commanders in Afghanistan have been calling for around 7,500 extra troops. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) comprises some 42,000 troops from 39 countries.

Britain's Miliband said international efforts to stabilise Afghanistan were entering a "new phase" which combined military solutions with political and developmental concerns.

"I hope we will be able to take a message about what really is a new phase in this drive, a new phase in terms of the counter-insurgency and the way in which military and political efforts are going to come together," he said. (AFP)