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June 22, 2017

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More aid for Afghanistan: NATO head

BRUSSELS -- NATO needs more international help from the United Nations and European Union to secure and rebuild Afghanistan, the alliance's new civilian chief said Monday.

"NATO will do its part but it cannot do it alone, this needs to be an international effort, both military and civilian," said Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a former Danish prime minister who took office earlier in the day as NATO's new secretary-general.

Fogh Rasmussen said his top priorities would be guiding the war in Afghanistan to a successful conclusion, repairing ties with Russia that were further strained by last year's Russo-Georgian war, and expanding NATO's partnership with moderate nations in North Africa and the Middle East.

NATO has about 64,000 soldiers in Afghanistan -- half of them Americans -- where they are struggling to contain an escalating Taliban insurgency. More than 20,000 new U.S. troops are being deployed, but European allies have been reluctant to increase their contributions to the international force.

Fogh Rasmussen is the latest addition to the new team of civilian and military leaders to lead the war effort. They include U.S. Adm. James Stavridis as NATO's commander, U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal as NATO chief in Afghanistan, and Richard Holbrooke, as the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Fogh Rasmussen's predecessor Jaap de Hoop Scheffer -- who stepped down on Thursday -- repeatedly warned that the war in Afghanistan represents a crucial test of the power and relevance of the 60-year-old alliance.

Asked if the mission in Afghanistan represented a "make or break," situation for NATO, Fogh Rasmussen replied: "It will not be a break, it will be a make (because) a lot is at stake for the Afghan people, for the international community, and also for NATO."

"Obviously, NATO is the strongest military alliance but to win the peace ... NATO must expand ability to work together with European Union, the United Nations, even NGOs," Fogh Rasmussen said at a media conference at NATO headquarters.

Alliance leaders picked Fogh Rasmussen during their summit in April. The Dane was a controversial choice because he infuriated many Muslims following the 2005 publication in Denmark of 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

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