NATO chief appeals for more troops to train Afghans

10th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen Friday appealed to members of the coalition in Afghanistan to provide more troops able to train Afghans, and ensure a swifter withdrawal of foreign forces.

"On troop requests, we have been quite successful in the generation of new forces," he told a joint news conference in Madrid with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

But he said "the military authorities have requested a bit more because we need more trainers... It's a core element in our strategy to make sure that the Afghans can take responsibility in a gradual process.

"We will hand over security responsibility to the Afghans. But to that end we must educate Afghan soldiers and Afghan police and we still have some shortfalls in our training mission," the NATO secretary general said.

"I urge all allies and partners to fill the gaps in our training mission... because training is the ticket to transition, and that's the road to a withdrawal of our troops."

The United States and its NATO allies battling the Taliban insurgency view building up the Afghan army and police as crucial to paving the way for an eventual withdrawal of foreign troops.

But the US officer in charge of training the Afghan army and police, Lieutenant General Bill Caldwell, said last month that Afghan forces will not be ready to take over security duties from NATO-led troops for at least another year, three months after the scheduled start of a US withdrawal.

Rasmussen said the coalition is "making progress on the ground" in Afghanistan and "the Taliban is under pressure everywhere."

He hoped that a NATO summit in Lisbon in November would announce "that we are about to start a process of gradual transition of lead responsibility to the Afghans themselves. This is our ultimate goal, to see the Afghans become masters in their own house."

Zapatero expressed Spain's "firm commitment" to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan but said the government had as yet made no decision to increase the number of Civil Guard police serving there.

Spain currently has 1,555 troops serving in ISAF, according to the ISAF website, part of a 141,000-strong force deployed in Afghanistan to battle a Taliban-led insurgency nearing the end of its ninth year.

The Spanish contingent runs a US-led civil-military operation known as a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT).

Last month, two Spanish policemen and an interpreter were killed in a shooting attack during a training session in the northwestern province of Badghis.

© 2010 AFP

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