US: More foreign troops certain in new Afghan plan

AP News
Posted: Nov 07, 2009 7:45 AM

A top Pentagon official says President Barack Obama's new strategy for Afghanistan will be certain to include reinforcements of foreign troops from both the United States and allied nations.

Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy said a strategy decision on new deployments involving the U.S. and other troop-contributing nations would be made within the next few weeks, according to an official transcript released Saturday.

Flournoy, the Pentagon's policy chief, led a U.S. delegation that briefed NATO ambassadors Thursday on the Obama administration's review of the Afghan war. Officials released a transcript of her remarks from that meeting.

"No one is talking about leaving Afghanistan, or even standing pat. We are increasing our commitment and we're talking about how best to do that with both civilian and military resources," Flournoy was quoted as telling NATO ambassadors.

The allies are engaged in intense deliberations regarding the future of the 71,000-strong NATO force in Afghanistan, nearly half of which is American. The U.S. military also has about 36,000 soldiers in Afghanistan who serve outside NATO under their own command.

Stanley McChrystal, the NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is calling for tens of thousands more American and allied troops as the Afghan war drags into its ninth year.

But opinion polls in many troop-providing countries indicate growing opposition to sending more soldiers at a time of economic crisis, shrinking defense budgets and increasing disillusionment with the war.

World leaders have been warning President Hamid Karzai that he must crack down on corruption if he expects continued international support.

NATO officials said Thursday's talks did not deal with any requests for troops. That subject is expected to be discussed at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers next month.

A U.S. request for more NATO troops could spark a rift among allied nations, some of which have announced plans to start reducing their troop commitments in Afghanistan next year. Others have indicated they may consider modest increases.