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NATO reaffirms 'long-term commitment' to Afghanistan
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While NATO leaders reaffirmed their "shared long-term commitment" to Afghanistan at the just-concluded summit in Bucharest, grave challenges remain in honoring the commitment and producing tangible results, analysts said.

In a declaration issued at the end of a high-level meeting, part of the summit, NATO leaders reiterated their pledges to enhance security efforts in Afghanistan, including providing training teams and equipment needed to "meet the goal of an effective 80,000-strong Afghan Army by 2010," strengthening the Afghan leadership and improving civil-military coordination.

However, Taliban insurgents on Sunday downplayed NATO's renewed pledge on Afghanistan, saying the alliance has failed to make good on its past promise to bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan.

NATO's military credibility in doubt

Many observers share the view that the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which has 47,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan, has failed to root out Taliban militants and ensure stability.

Despite Washington's repeated requests for more military support from NATO allies, most of the member states are reluctant to send reinforcements to Afghanistan due to the worsening security situation in the country and rising domestic pressure for withdrawal of their troops.

Canada, in particular, has threatened to pull out its troops from the southern Afghan province of Kandahar by 2009 unless other allies provide additional troops and resources.

The discord was alleviated by the French announcement at the summit that it would send a battalion of troops to the east of Afghanistan.

"I can confirm that the French government has offered a substantial military contribution to the operation in Afghanistan, " said NATO spokesman James Appathurai, adding that the troops and equipment already pledged had satisfied Canada's demand for help from an ally.

Despite France's expansion of its military presence in Afghanistan, a huge gap remains between the expansion scale and the actual number of troops needed in the country, analysts said.

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