Bulgaria approves 70 troops to guard Kabul airport
SOFIA, May 18 (Reuters) NATO newcomer Bulgaria today agreed to send some 70 troops to Afghanistan to take over security arrangements at the Kabul airport for five months staring in August, the government said.
The Black Sea country already has around 100 troops and medical staff serving in the 9,000-strong NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) that operates in Kabul and north and west Afghanistan.
The new troops are to leave on around July 15 pending parliament's expected rubber-stamping to the plan.
''In accordance with NATO's plans ... Bulgaria will be the leading country for ensuring Kabul's airport operations from August until December,'' the government said in a statement after approving the deployment.
An earlier plan envisioned sending up to 350 troops for the airport mission, but the cabinet later scaled that down.
''Seventy troops are enough at this stage,'' said Defence Minister Veselin Bliznakov.
NATO's expansion in the coming months will take foreign troop numbers in Afghanistan to their highest levels since the Taliban's overthrow in 2001 and will send NATO on what is set to be the toughest ground mission in its 58-year history.
Violence has risen sharply in the country in recent months, with a string of deadly roadside and suicide bomb attacks, raids and ambushes.
REUTERS PR BD1838