Saturday, February 21, 2009

NATO allies reluctant to increase Afghan presence

February 20, 2009
International Herald Tribune

KRAKOW, Poland: NATO defense ministers concluded two days of talks here Friday with indications that few allies were willing to offer significant numbers of additional combat troops for Afghanistan but that they might seek to compensate by deploying more civilians to train local security forces and build the country's economy.

The announcement this week that the Obama administration would send 17,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan by the summer was met with formal offers from allies numbering only in the hundreds of fresh troops of their own.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking at the conclusion of the session, emphasized the importance of having sufficient troops on the ground to guarantee that national elections in Afghanistan, now scheduled for August, are safe and credible. He went out of his way to compliment a handful of countries that, like the United States, had contributed both troops and civilian development teams. But in a tacit acknowledgement that other countries would be unwilling or unable to send more combat forces, Gates appealed for allies to send civilians to carry out important, noncombat development tasks.

"We are making a substantial addition to the military side," Gates said. "And if other countries are unable to strengthen their military commitment - but they are willing and able to make a contribution on the stability side, on the development and governance - those contributions would be very welcome."

The full article is here

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