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NATO Command Extension in Afghanistan Isn’t Done Deal, Spokesman Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 22, 2008 – A Pentagon announcement yesterday that NATO command tours will be extended to a year was premature, Defense Department officials said today.

Geoff Morrell, Pentagon press secretary, said he was wrong when he said during a news conference that Dutch and British officials had agreed to extend their commands of Regional Command South from nine to 12 months.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has spoken with his Dutch and British counterparts about the problems associated with nine-month command tours in Regional Command South, Morrell said. “They have all agreed that extending them to 12 months would provide more stability and predictability,” he said in a written correction. “This is not yet a done deal.

“The preliminary agreement among the ministers of defense must still be formally approved by the Dutch and British governments, as well as the NATO secretary general,” Morrell said. “We have no indication that will be a problem, but we have yet to get a final blessing on this improved rotation schedule.”

The schedule now calls for the Dutch to relieve the Canadians in the command in November. The British are due to take command following the Dutch.

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