NATO agrees on need for more troops in Afghanistan but waits for U.S. nod

09:37, October 28, 2009      

Email | Print | Subscribe | Comments | Forum 

By Abdul Hadi Mayar

Although NATO defense ministers have endorsed U.S.-NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander General Stanley McChrystal's calls for further reinforcement in Afghanistan, it has been observed that additional commitments should go beyond combat forces.

"What we did was to discuss General McChrystal's overall assessment, his overall approach, and I have noted a broad support from all ministers of this overall counterinsurgency approach," NATO's secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said soon after the two-day meeting in Bratislava, Slovakia, on October 23.

"What we need is a much broader strategy, which stabilizes the whole of Afghan society, and this is the essence in the recommendations presented by General McChrystal," said Mr. Rasmussen.

NATO defense ministers insisted that a broader plan for Afghanistan must include trainers for the Afghan army and police force, as well as civilians to help rebuild the economy and restore confidence in the government.

The meeting adopted a four-point plan, which calls for placing the Afghan population at the core of NATO-ISAF's collective effort; an enhanced effort to build the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces; to work more closely and effectively with the international and Afghan partners to promote better governance, and to engage effectively with Afghanistan's neighbors, particularly Pakistan.

The ministers also approved the Strategic Concept for Transition to Afghan Security Forces lead in security operations, agreeing that training of the Afghan security forces is crucial to a transition to Afghan lead and that the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan will need to be fully resourced in order to build the capacity necessary.

Highlighting need for training Afghan security forces, Rasmussen said: "I am pleased that we now have an agreed understanding on how we are going to transition from a NATO security lead to an Afghan lead."

However, he said that to make it effective, the ISAF will need more training teams and money to sustain the growing Afghan forces.

NATO officials say that such a transition cannot be solely military as they believe that in addition to a strong army and police, Afghanistan also needs a credible government taking active, visible steps to show that it is cleaning up corruption, improving efficiency and delivering services to the people effectively.

Prior to NATO defense ministers' meeting, Kai Eide, the UN Secretary General's special representative for Afghanistan, urged at a news conference in Bratislava that "additional international troops are required" to help secure the country, and to train its army and police forces.

He said he endorsed General Stanley McChrystal's call for reinforcement and added: "There has to be contribution from other [NATO] troop contributors, and in particular Europeans."

U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates told media after the meeting that many allies spoke positively about General McChrystal's assessment, adding that he had received indications that some allies were prepared to increase their contributions of civilian experts or troops, or both.

General McChrystal has demanded a maximum of 85,000 more troops, although his leading option calls for sending 40,000 additional forces.

The U.S. general believes that these additional troops are needed for implementing a full-scale counterinsurgency strategy that focuses on protecting population centers and accelerating the training of Afghan army and police units.

Senior U.S. military officers, including chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Admiral Mike Mullen and U.S. regional commander, General David Petraeus, have already endorsed General McChrystal's overall strategy. However, some civilian officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, are opposed to his call for sending more troops to Afghanistan.

While Britain has already committed 500 additional troops to Afghanistan, NATO officials assessing the potential for allied troop contributions say NATO capitals were watching the Obama administration for signals even while they send signals of their own.

In an interview, the U.S. defense secretary said last week that any U.S. decision on Afghanistan is still two or three weeks away, cautioning that it is premature to draw conclusions now about whether the president would deploy more troops.

However, while much of a NATO decision on sending additional troops to Afghanistan depends upon President Obama's new strategy, a final decision in this connection is likely to come on the occasion of the next month parliamentary assembly of the alliance in Edinburg.

Source: Xinhua
  • Do you have something to say?
Special Coverage
  • 60th anniversary of founding of PRC
Major headlines
Editor's Pick
Most Popular
Hot Forum Dicussion