NATO girds for "hot spring" in Afghanistan, Kosovo The Link http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070125/wl_nm/nato_dc_1 BRUSSELS (Reuters) NATO chiefs, meeting on Friday, will gird the alliance for a rough ride ahead, with the threat of a new Taliban offensive in Afghanistan and ethnic tensions in Kosovo sparked by a U.N. ruling on its independence claim. U.S. Secretary of State Condoloeezza Rice, who called the meeting of alliance foreign ministers, is due to announce billions of dollars more U.S. aid for Afghanistan after a policy review to put more emphasis on the need for fast reconstruction. The alliance also wants to ensure its peacekeepers are not caught napping by any violence in the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo, as they were in March 2004 when 19 people died as ethnic Albanian mobs burned U.N. vehicles and Serb homes. "We are heading into a spring period that could be very hot indeed," said one NATO diplomat. NATO's credibility is pegged on the success of its two largest operations, with the 32,000-strong Afghan mission proving to be the most hazardous in its 58-year-old history. There has been a total of 357 NATO and U.S.-led coalition deaths in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S. invasion.