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NATO boss says Afghan strategy was flawed: report

An Afghan army soldier fires his rifle during an operation against insurgents outside Kunduz city June 15, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Making individual NATO members responsible for specific provinces in Afghanistan has hindered international cooperation efforts, NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in a magazine interview.

“All countries like to think they are the champions of reconstruction,” NATO Secretary General De Hoop Scheffer said in an interview with Dutch magazine Vrij Nederland on Tuesday.

“But that has not stimulated real international military and civil cooperation, and from time to time it has even worked against it,” he told the magazine.

De Hoop Scheffer, who is stepping down as NATO chief on August 1, said individual members of the 28-nation military alliance had become too focused on their own interests during reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

“In hindsight I would have chosen a stronger combination of military effort and reconstruction,” he said.

With insurgent violence at its worst level since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, U.S. officials have acknowledged they are not winning in Afghanistan and the administration has declared the war its top military priority.

At a meeting in Brussels last week, NATO ministers backed a U.S. shake-up of military command in Afghanistan based on a model used in Iraq.

The United States has increased its military presence to 56,000 troops, from about 32,000 in late 2008, and expects a rise to some 68,000 by autumn. This is in addition to some 33,000 troops from NATO and partner countries.

Washington and its allies are also stepping up efforts to build up the Afghan army and police to more than 200,000 personnel.

Reporting by Catherine Hornby; Editing by Louise Ireland