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Turkey to command Afghan force

ANKARA, Turkey (CNN) -- Turkey's military has agreed to take over the reins of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, currently under the command of Britain.

Major General Akin Zorlu is to lead a Turkish military delegation to Kabul this week to begin preparations for the transfer of control.

Turkey, which currently has 267 troops in Afghanistan, is expected to boost its forces by 1,000 before taking over ISAF command by May.

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Turkey, the only Muslim nation that is a member of NATO, had been tentatively lined up to replace the UK as head of ISAF for some time.

But outstanding issues like financial support, how forces would be transported, as well as communications and intelligence support have been a part of behind the scene negotiations.

Turkey has also sought assurances that other NATO countries would maintain their presence in Afghanistan and that Turkey would receive adequate logistical support in operations.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair had said he wanted the switch to happen by April 1, but had added it could be extended slightly.

ISAF is comprised of about 4,500 forces from a number of countries, including Britain, France, Italy, Turkey and Germany.

They are providing security in Kabul as the interim government begins to take hold.


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