`Vital time` for Afghanistan, NATO: Miliband
Brussels: British Foreign Secretary David Miliband warned on Friday that now is a "vital time" for NATO and the Afghan government to seize back the initiative from the Taliban and al Qaeda.
"We are now at a vital time, and we all know that in the 1990s Afghanistan was the incubator of international terrorism, the incubator of choice for global jihad," he said, ahead of talks with his NATO counterparts in Brussels.
"It`s very important that we make progress at this time," he told reporters. "We know that the stakes are very high indeed."
His call came as NATO allies and their partners in Afghanistan muster troops to implement a new counter-insurgency strategy to combat extremist fighters who have inflicted increasing casualties over the last year.
He urged partners to take advantage of the combination of a new Afghan government, a relatively new administration in Washington and the fact that the conflict has dragged on for eight years.
"This is the time for all the international community to step up, to support the efforts of the governments in Afghanistan and Pakistan to ensure stability in that crucial part of the world," he said.
US President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday the dispatch of an extra 30,000 troops -- the first marines will leave in less than two weeks -- and has called on his partners in Afghanistan to come up with 5,000-7,000 more.
NATO officials said Thursday that more than 20 nations of the 43 involved in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had signalled that they would up their contribution, and that the 5,000 target would be surpassed.
Obama has said that he would begin withdrawing US troops in mid-2011.
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