Eurocorps to take over ISAF command in August

Eurocorps will take over command of NATO-run international peacekeepers in the Afghan capital Kabul in August, the head of the five-nation military force said. Eurocorps will take control of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), currently under Canadian command, for six months, General Jean-Louis Py said late on Wednesday.

"We will thus fulfill our vocation of being a rapid European reaction force, at the service of NATO, for this operation to secure and rebuild Afghanistan in support of the Afghan government," Py said in a speech at a reception in Strasbourg, eastern France, where Eurocorps is based.

Py said the force deployed in Afghanistan would come from Eurocorps' command structures -- from Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Spain -- and the general staff of the Franco-German brigade based in the Black Forest. A Belgian unit might also take part, he said.

NATO took command last year of the 6,100-strong ISAF, which was set up by the United Nations in December 2001, weeks after the defeat of the radical Islamic Taliban regime.

France and Germany confirmed on Thursday the Franco-German brigade would head the Eurocorps force in Afghanistan.

Eurocorps, which consists of 60,000 men and around 1,000 tanks and armoured vehicles, would initially operate solely in Kabul but discussions are continuing on extending its control to civilian-military reconstruction teams (PRTs) in the provinces, a Eurocorps official told AFP.

The PRTs, run either by the US military or NATO, are responsible for boosting reconstruction work, security and central government control over the central Asian country's unstable provinces, particularly in the run-up to presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in September.

More than 1,000 men from the 5,000-strong Franco-German brigade may be sent to Afghanistan and they would take over control of PRTs under NATO command if that decision is approved, the Eurocorps official said.

The Atlantic alliance agreed earlier this year to a request from the Afghan authorities to extend the peacekeeping force beyond Kabul to the provinces, but is battling to persuade its member states to provide the necessary resources.

NATO currently commands one 200-man PRT in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan, and said last week it expected to take command of five others in the north by the end of June.

Twelve PRTs are under the command of the separate 11,000-strong US military force in Afghanistan, mainly in the south, and British forces oversee another PRT in northern Mazar-i-Sharif.

Eurocorps, created in 1992, was approved as a NATO rapid reaction force in....

The Afghan operation will be the force's first outside Europe. Between 1998 and 2000 its troops took part in the NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR) in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

[Source: Agence France Presse, Strasbourg, Fra, 13May04]

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