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ARLINGTON, Va. — NATO is expanding its operations in Afghanistan into the western part of the country, but members of the alliance still have no intention of taking on a combat role in Iraq, NATO’s top official said Wednesday.

NATO is keeping its 2004 promise to train 1,500 new Iraqi officers, including 1,000 who will be trained inside Iraq and another 500 officers trained in NATO countries, the alliance’s Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, told reporters in Washington on Wednesday.

However, “the focus is on training,” Scheffer said.

The possibility of expanding the mission into combat “is not a decision that is going on in the NATO framework,” Scheffer said.

Although the Iraq mission may be limited to training, Scheffer noted that NATO is heavily involved in Afghanistan, especially since the alliance took over command of that country’s International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, in August 2003.

The United Nations authorized ISAF in 2001 to provide security in and around Afghanistan’s capitol city of Kabul.

But after NATO took over the force, the UN expanded ISAF’s charter in October 2003 to include operations beyond Kabul in the form of “Provincial Reconstruction Teams,” or PRTs.

A combination of international military and civilian personnel, the goal of the PRTs is to help stabilize, secure, and rebuild Afghanistan’s many remote and war-torn regions and assisting the fledgling central government in establishing its authority throughout the country, Scheffer said.

ISAF first focused the PRTs on Afghanistan’s northern region, where they are now well established, Scheffer said.

Now ISAF will expand operations into western Afghanistan this summer, taking command of two additional Provincial Reconstruction Teams in the provinces of Herat and Farah and a logistics hub in Heart, Scheffer said.

Later this summer, the expansion will grow to include the west, Scheffer said, when ISAF will stand up another two PRTs — one in Chaghcharan, capital of Ghor province, and one in Qal‘eh-Now, capital of Baghdis province.

Once the western PRTs are founded, ISAF plans to expand the teams into the south, and finally, the east of Afghanistan, Scheffer said.

Moreover, NATO is also planning on sending an additional three battalions, or “close to 2,000” troops, to provide security for Afghanistan’s National Assembly elections, which are scheduled for Sept. 19, Scheffer said.

Scheffer said he did not anticipate any difficulty finding NATO members to offer the “temporary” troops for the election security mission.

“I’m not worried at all about the question of [RECRUITING]those forces,” Scheffer said.

But the secretary would not say which alliance members have volunteered to help.

The NATO secretary was making his second official trip to Washington since his inaugural visit with President George Bush in January 2004.

After meeting with Washington reporters, Scheffer was to meet with President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, as well as attending a dinner sponsored by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.


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