ARLINGTON, Va. — Dutch and British defense officials have agreed that their countries will lead NATO troops in southern Afghanistan for a year each beginning in November, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

The Dutch and British parliaments and NATO must all approve the change, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said Thursday. Right now, command of NATO troops in southern Afghanistan changes every nine months, Morrell said Wednesday. The proposed change to one-year command rotations came after discussions between Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his Dutch and British counterparts, Morrell told reporters at a news conference. The Dutch will take charge of troops in southern Afghanistan in November, followed by the British in 2009 and the Americans in 2010, Morrell said.

The U.S. has sent 2,400 Marines to southern Afghanistan whoh are not slated to be replaced, and it expects to move troops from the eastern part of the country to the south after the French send troops to Afghanistan, Morrell explained. Morrell said he could not predict future U.S. troop levels in southern Afghanistan. A spokeswoman for the Dutch embassy in Washington said the length of time Dutch troops spend in the country would not change.

Anthony Cordesman, of the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the move’s significance was not readily apparent because crucial details still need to be worked out.

"Until we know what the overall campaign structure is, how it will work with U.S. reinforcements, what the force levels will be, it’s one more interesting announcement that doesn’t necessarily explain anything," he said.

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