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    ANA strength reaches 134,000

    KABUL (PAN): The number of Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers has reached 134,000, a target achieved five months ahead of schedule, an official said on Monday.

    Additionally, 22,000 army officials were under training in different parts of the country, said the commander of the ANAs Education and Training Department, Maj. Gen. Aminullah Karim.

    He made the remarks during a visit to the 5th brigade of the 205th Atal Military Corps in Kabul. Gen. Karim was accompanied by five parliamentarians from Kandahar and ANAs deputy head of operations, Maj. Gen. Afzal Aman.

    Under an agreement with the US, the ANA strength was to reach 134,000 until the end of the current year, Gen. Karim said. In a year or so, the ANA strength is likely to increase to 240,000.

    On the occasion, the soldiers performed their combat skills. The 5th brigade troops will be deployed soon to the southern province of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement.

    "I hope the brigades deployment would help maintain peace in Kandahar," said Khalid Pashtun, public representative from the province.

    The number of ANA soldiers will go up to 150,000 before September 18 parliamentary elections, according to the Defence Ministry spokesman, Gen. Zahir Azimi.

    myn/mud