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Afghanistan Peace Force Takes Shape

An international conference in Britain is ironing out the final details for the international peace force for Afghanistan.

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Advance commandos prepare the ground for the Afghanistan peacekeeping force.

Military representatives from the countries that have pledged personnel for the Afghanistan peacekeeping force are meeting at an undisclosed location near London.

The conference is supposed to decide on the size of the different national contingents and the details of their mission.

No agenda for the meeting has been published - the negotiations are taking place in utmost secrecy. Among the countries taking part in the conference are the U.S. and Britain, Germany, France and Canada.

5,000 international peacekeepers for Afghanistan

The international peace force is due to be roughly 5,000 strong. It will be called ISAF, or International Security Assistance Force.

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine has told the U.N. that France will contribute special units. Other likely contributors are Turkey, Italy, Spain and Canada.

Britain will head the force for the first three months. It hasn't been decide who will follow the British in commanding the international force. Some analysts think Turkey stands a good chance of taking over command from Britain.

German contingent ready to go

Germany has pledged 1,200 soldiers for the Afghanistan peace-keeping force. The first contingent of 200 German soldiers is due to depart for Kabul in early January.

Colonel Karl-Henning Kröger, a German military spokesman, said the task of the first German soldiers would be to prepare the ground for the troops that will follow. They would need to check the condition of Afghan roads and airports and find out how electricity, fuel and drinking water could be provided for the peacekeepers that will arrive later.

Kröger said the German contingent was well trained and prepared for the tasks awaiting it in Afghanistan. He said the main task of the German soldiers would be to provide safety for Afghanistan's interim government and for humanitarian aid organizations in Kabul.

Soldiers' union points out dangers

Earlier this week, the chairman of the German Armed Forces Association Bernhard Gertz said the German soldiers were ill-equipped for Afghanistan. The Armed Forces Association is the largest German organization representing the interests of servicemen.

Gertz criticized that the mandate for the international peacekeepers was just for the capital Kabul and its surroundings. He said because of this limitation and the small size of the international force, it wouldn't be able to prevent possible outbreaks of civil war in other parts of Afghanistan.

Gertz said the German armed forces had scraped together the last personnel reserves for the Afghanistan mission. He added that if the German troops were to stay in Afghanistan longer than the originally planned six months, Germany would have to cut back its contingent for the Bosnia peacekeeping force considerably.

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