UK: NATO to offer 5,000 troops for Afghanistan

AP News
|
Posted: Nov 25, 2009 12:30 PM

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Wednesday that several NATO nations will jointly offer 5,000 more troops for Afghanistan, as London and Washington push allies to take on a greater share of the war burden.

Brown wrote to NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to confirm that many of 10 other nations consulted by British officials in recent weeks have pledged to send reinforcements.

"Following these meetings and contacts, I am now optimistic that a majority of these countries will indeed make available increased numbers of troops, and more police trainers and civilian support," Brown wrote in his letter.

So far, Slovakia has offered 250 extra soldiers, Georgia has pledged between 700 and 1,000 soldiers, and South Korea has said it would send "several hundred" to protect its reconstruction teams.

The United States, Britain, Canada and the Netherlands have long grumbled that many NATO partners _ chiefly Germany and France _ have failed to take on a fair share of combat duties. The U.S. has pressed NATO and other allies for between 5,000 and 7,000 additional non-U.S. troops.

Canadian and Dutch, however, troops are both scheduled to begin pulling out of Afghanistan.

Brown plans to send 500 more British troops _ not included in the 5,000 figure _ soon after President Barack Obama announces his plans for reinforcements, scheduled for Tuesday. The U.K. currently has 9,000 troops in Afghanistan.

There are currently 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, a record. NATO and other allies collectively have an additional 36,000 troops in the country.

The British leader has not named the other countries who have agreed to provide more personnel.

His spokesman Simon Lewis said it was for allies to announce their own plans, but denied claims that Brown is being overly optimistic.

"I believe that next week we will see the American government and the rest of NATO coming together in a strategy that will mean we will have the forces that are necessary," Brown told lawmakers at the House of Commons.

In Brussels, NATO spokesman James Appathurai said some allies plan to delay their decisions on further troop pledges until after an international conference on the future of Afghanistan, tentatively scheduled for January.

Brown told Rasmussen he plans to host the conference in London. Lewis said foreign ministers are expected to attend, rather the heads of government.

"Nobody should expect that the day after President Obama makes his announcement that there will be a total troop figure added up ... by the other allies," Appathurai said.

"A number of countries ... are looking to that conference," he said. "They want to see any further contributions in the context of the overall political environment in which they will be deploying their forces."

Committing additional troops for Afghanistan will be a tough sell for many allied governments at a time of economic crisis and shrinking defense budgets. Polls show that most Europeans oppose sending more soldiers into what many see as an unwinnable conflict.

___

Associated Press writer Slobodan Lekic contributed to this report from Brussels.