NATO chief urges more troops for Afghanistan
8 February 2007, Seville, Spain (dpa) - NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on Thursday urged alliance members to provide enough troops to counter an expected spring offensive by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. In remarks ahead of a meeting of NATO's 26 defence ministers, Scheffer stressed that development and nation-building were needed to stabilize Afghanistan. "There is no final military answer in Afghanistan," said Scheffer who added, however, that a robust military presence was vital to provide a secu
8 February 2007
Seville, Spain (dpa) - NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on Thursday urged alliance members to provide enough troops to counter an expected spring offensive by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
In remarks ahead of a meeting of NATO's 26 defence ministers, Scheffer stressed that development and nation-building were needed to stabilize Afghanistan.
"There is no final military answer in Afghanistan," said Scheffer who added, however, that a robust military presence was vital to provide a secure environment for rebuilding the war-torn country.
The NATO chief did not set any targets for an additional number of troops needed in Afghanistan, saying only that alliance commanders must have "the forces that are necessary."
Scheffer insisted that the two-day meeting in the southern Spanish city of Seville was not aimed at bringing pledges of more soldiers for Afghanistan.
"Force generation is a continuous process in NATO," he said.
But with the Taliban reportedly gearing up for an offensive against NATO, alliance governments are under pressure to raise the number of troops from the current 35,460 soldiers serving in the country. There are a further 8,000 US troops in Afghanistan operating separately.
Despite fears that NATO does not have enough troops in place amid increasing hostilities, most governments remain unwilling to send additional combat soldiers to Afghanistan.
Last year saw the bloodiest conflict in Afghanistan since 2001 when a US-led coalition toppled the Taliban regime. More than 4,000 people - including 170 foreign troops - were killed in fighting.
NATO ministers will be briefed on a revised Afghan alliance strategy by General Bantz Craddock, Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
Craddock is expected to ask for 2,000 troops from the 26-nation alliance to back up an additional 3,000 US and British soldiers being deployed in southern Afghanistan.
The US is also raising pressure for a stronger NATO effort in Afghanistan. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, who is attending his first NATO meeting, is expected to make a plea for a bigger European contribution.
The NATO operation in Afghanistan is starkly divided between countries involved in combat and those keeping their soldiers away from ongoing firefights.
Soldiers from the US, Canada, Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands are engaged in military operations against the Taliban. Canadian forces have taken especially heavy casualties over the past year.
Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Turkey, however, have mainly deployed their troops in relatively peaceful regions of Afghanistan.
Spanish Defence Minister Jose Antonio Alonso, who is hosting the meeting, said Madrid would send four unmanned surveillance drones to Afghanistan by summer.
He pledged to raise the "quality" of Spanish troops based in the country but did not announce any increase in the number of soldiers from the present strength of 550.
Germany has repeatedly refused to send combat forces to aid NATO allies in southern Afghanistan. Germany's 2,700 Afghan troops are mainly restricted to serving in northern Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, the German cabinet approved deploying six Tornado jets for Afghan surveillance but strictly barred the jets from taking part in any air strikes.
The focus in Seville will also be on better training and equipping of the Afghan national army and police force and increasing efforts to fight drug trafficking.
Abdul Rahim Wardak, the Afghan defence minister, is due to attend part of the talks.
The Seville meeting was taking place amid an intense security operation.
Spain's Defence Ministry said fighter aircraft and three NATO AWACS surveillance jets were controlling the airspace over the city. Ground-based anti-missile defence systems were also protecting the talks taking place at a convention centre.
Subject: German news