Turkish NATO peacekeepers to stay in Afghanistan another year

ISTANBUL Thu Sep 20, 2012 2:00pm EDT

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish peacekeepers will remain in Afghanistan's capital Kabul until at least November 2013 after the military agreed to extend its mandate as part of a NATO force by a year, the Turkish military said on Thursday.

Turkish soldiers took over the Kabul regional command as part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in November 2009. The military said in a statement that mission had been extended for a year from November 1, 2012.

The war in Afghanistan, which has failed to defeat the Taliban after more than a decade of fighting, has strained budgets and lost public support in Western nations.

NATO has said it plans to shift full responsibility for security across the country to Afghan forces by the middle of next year and then withdraw most of the alliance's 130,000 combat troops by the end of 2014.

U.S. President Barack Obama has championed a gradual exit of the allied force which does not leave Afghans feeling abandoned, but France has vowed to pull its troops out by the end of the year, two years ahead of the alliance's timetable.

(Reporting by Seltem Iyigun; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Sophie Hares)

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