NEWS

Greece set to increase presence in Kabul

Greece is set to make a modest increase in the number of troops it has in Afghanistan, according to sources, following a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Poland yesterday. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged NATO members to increase their presence despite Washington announcing that it will be sending an extra 17,000 soldiers. «There is a requirement out there in terms of the desire to have people sign up for additional troops during that period and frankly the response so far has been disappointing,» said Gates. Germany confirmed yesterday that it would send an extra 600 troops ahead of elections in Afghanistan on August 20. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer believes that about 10,000 troops will be needed to provide security for the elections. Greece currently has less than 200 soldiers in Afghanistan but sources said the Defense Ministry would make a small increase to this number following yesterday’s meeting. It is thought the ministry is thinking of sending troops that will be able to help with administrative duties during the elections, as well as more doctors and nurses. A liaison team, which will act as a link between Greek troops and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), is also likely to be sent out. Seven Greek soldiers will also be sent to help international forces at Kabul International Airport. Greek forces are due to take over the running of the airport in the spring next year, a task they have undertaken before. Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis also made it clear that Greece is willing to continue to train Afghan soldiers here. But he also made it clear that Greece is not able to send many troops or equipment because of its own defense commitments.