No NATO ally has come forward to pledge additional troops to
southern Afghanistan at a meeting of NATO defense ministers, a NATO
official said Thursday.
On the first day of their informal meeting, the NATO defense
ministers focused their attention on NATO-led missions in
Afghanistan and Kosovo.
Ministers attend the
informal NATO ministers conference in Vilnius Feb. 7,
Asked whether any NATO ally has answered Washington's call for
combat troops in Afghanistan's volatile south, NATO spokesman James
Appathurai said the meeting was not aimed at generating forces.
"It was not a force generation meeting and the ministers were
not expected to (generate forces). We did not expect ministers to
come to the table with force packages," Appathurai told
He said, however, there were discussions over burden sharing and
risk sharing among the allies.
Currently all 26 NATO allies have troops in Afghanistan. But the
majority of them are doing reconstruction and training tasks in the
relatively calm regions, leaving only four allies – United States,
Canada, Britain and the Netherlands -- in the south to bear the
brunt of Taliban insurgency.
In mid January, the Pentagon announced the temporary deployment
of 3,200 Marines in Afghanistan for six months -- 2,200 of them for
combat activities in the south, after Washington's calls for more
European troops had fallen on deaf ears.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week wrote to each and
every defense minister of the other 25 NATO countries, asking them
to commit troops to at least refill the gap to be left by the
withdrawal of the U.S. Marines in autumn.
But it appears unlikely that the European allies will come up
with the troops needed as their own forces are already stretched by
missions elsewhere -- in Iraq, Kosovo, Lebanon and Africa.
British soldiers with the
NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) patrol
Helmand province in 2007.
On Wednesday, Germany announced that it will send 250 additional
troops to Afghanistan. But the deployment will be in the north, to
replace Norwegian troops.
Canada, with 2,500 troops fighting in the southern province of
Kandahar, has threatened to pull out its forces after their mandate
expires in early 2009 unless other allies will provide 1,000
soldiers plus resources.
Canadian Defense Minister Peter Gordon MacKay on Thursday
explained to his colleagues the difficulties his government is
facing as well as the conditions to be met for an extension of the
Canadian troops, said Appathurai.
MacKay was also in bilateral discussions on this issue, he
Appathurai said there was a unanimous view among NATO defense
ministers that Afghanistan will be a long-term commitment.
The ministers also voiced their opinion that the broader
international community needs to do more in Afghanistan.
"We do need to move away from the conception that Afghanistan is
NATO's problem and NATO's problem alone," said Appathurai.
The ministers are scheduled to hold discussions on Friday with
non-NATO troop contributors in Afghanistan and key international
players, such as the European Union and the World Bank.
(Xinhua News Agency February 8, 2008)