Afghanistan welcomed Pentagon plans to send an additional 3,000 US Marines to the country's volatile south in April, although it said Thursday the long-term solution is to bolster Afghan forces. Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammed Zahir Azimi said the deployment - still to be approved by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates - would help combat Taliban insurgents. But Azimi added the long-term solution was to boost the fighting strength of Afghanistan's own army. "Afghan security forces will be the force that will remain in Afghanistan and protect its peace and security, as well as defend the country," Azimi said. On Wednesday, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said that a proposal set to go before Gates on Friday would send a ground and air Marine contingent and a Marine battalion - totaling more than 3,000 troops - to southern Afghanistan for a "one-time, seven-month deployment."