Spain refuses more troops for Afghan mission

18th July 2007, Comments 0 comments

17 July 2007, LONDON - Spain is among a number of countries which refuse to send more troops to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, despite claims extra forces are needed.

17 July 2007

LONDON - Spain is among a number of countries which refuse to send more troops to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, despite claims extra forces are needed.

A panel of British MPs said on Wednesday the mission to Afghanistan is being undermined by members' failure to provide adequate troops and by serious strategic mistakes.

Echoing concerns expressed by senior British military figures in recent weeks, legislators warned the entire campaign is at risk if key NATO countries continue to refuse to deploy additional personnel.

Lawmakers also criticized the pace of work to combat the opium trade in Afghanistan and said NATO was failing to communicate its successes to ordinary Afghans, handing the propaganda initiative to the Taliban.

"The challenges facing U.K. forces in Afghanistan remain huge," said James Arbuthnot, head of Britain's parliamentary defense select committee. "The security situation in the south of the country is fragile to say the least and the cultivation of poppy is worse than ever."

British Defense Secretary Des Browne welcomed the report's findings.

"I agree with the committee's assessment that NATO nations should do more to meet the shortfalls in requirements," Browne said in a statement. "The U.K. continues to lobby other nations to provide more in terms of military and nonmilitary resources."

Figures released Tuesday showed Afghanistan's illicit heroin-producing poppy crop set another record this growing season, despite stepped-up efforts to combat the trade.

Farmers this year grew 86,000 hectares (212,506 acres) in Helmand province alone, the most violent region in Afghanistan where NATO forces, mainly British, are battling hundreds or thousands of Taliban fighters.

Though NATO's ISAF force has around 37,000 troops, a much larger number and increased development aid are needed to stabilize the country, the defense committee report said.

Britain has complained that its troops, along with those from the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands, are the only ones from NATO countries fighting the Taliban in the most violent areas of southern Afghanistan. Other NATO-contributing countries restrict the use of their forces to relatively peaceful areas in the north.

Spain, Italy, Germany and France, all members of both the EU and NATO, have refused to send additional troops to Afghanistan.

"We remain deeply concerned that the reluctance of some NATO members to provide troops for the ISAF mission is undermining NATO's credibility and also ISAF operations," the report said.

It said Afghanistan needed a military and financial commitment which is "considerably greater than the international community is at present willing to acknowledge, let alone to make."

British troops were deployed to the southern province of Helmand last May, but an initial strategy of placing soldiers in forward bases left them pinned down by insurgents, Gen. David Richards, the ex-head of NATO forces in Afghanistan told the committee.

He later backed a deal between local tribal leaders and Taliban fighters, under which the Afghans agreed to deny access to the southern town of Musa Qala to the Taliban, if NATO troops also withdrew.

But the peace deal crumbled when an estimated 200 Taliban fighters overran the town, seizing control before British soldiers returned.

Richards said the U.S. opposed the deals, despite calls from tribal leaders in other areas of southern Afghanistan to try the tactic. "They saw it as a form of surrendering to the Taliban," he told the panel in an April evidence session.

Lord Peter Inge, the former chief of Britain's defense staff, told parliament last week the situation in Afghanistan was worse than most people acknowledged.

"We need to face up to that issue, the consequences of strategic failure in Afghanistan and what that would mean for NATO," he told the House of Lords.

Work to eradicate opium cultivation _ for which Britain is Afghanistan's international partner _ is ineffective, the panel said. Many Afghans also mistook private U.S. contractors carrying out eradication for NATO soldiers, increasing the risk of reprisal attacks.

[Copyright AP with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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