Afghan defense minister at NATO for talks

Monday on the alliance's plans to expand its peacekeeping mission in his country and increase its training of Afghanistan's armed forces. NATO is in the process of widening its 9,000-strong force from the relatively peaceful north and west into the southern heartlands of the former Taliban regime, increasing the size of the mission to 16,000.

The alliance has also pledged to increase support for Afghan forces seeking to eradicate the cultivation of opium poppies in Afghanistan, which are used to produce 90 percent of the world's heroin. NATO's top operational commander, U.S. Gen. James L. Jones, last week said the alliance aimed to further expand its force to 21,000 by November mostly by incorporating U.S. troops who are currently on a separate mission to hunt down Taliban and al-Qaida holdouts.

Wardak was meeting with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, and with ambassadors from each of the 26 allies and other nations contributing to the NATO-led peacekeeping force, reports the AP.

N.U.