NATO governments may increase their fighting forces in Afghanistan by up to 6,000 soldiers in response to President Barack Obama's expected call for tens of thousands of additional U.S. service members, diplomats said Friday.
On Tuesday, Obama is expected to announce his new battle plan for Afghanistan, including an increase in U.S. forces and a strategy for ending America's military involvement there. Administration officials say Obama's plan will likely include the deployment of about 30,000 additional U.S. and allied soldiers.
NATO has scheduled a conference for Dec. 7 during which other allied nations will be able to pledge their own reinforcements.
A NATO diplomat said Friday that European and other nations already participating in the international force are expected to contribute between 4,000 and 6,000 fresh troops. The international force currently numbers more than 100,000 service members, with 41 NATO and other allied countries contributing about 36,000. The rest are Americans.
The diplomat said it was crucial for the alliance's future to have non-U.S. members contributing a significant number of the combat troops, as well as instructors who would train the Afghan army. Individual European nations will probably continue enlarging their troop commitments well into 2010, he said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
The Afghan army now has about 94,000 troops, and plans call for it to be expanded to 134,000. The Afghan police number about 93,000 members. Together, they face an estimated 25,000 Taliban insurgents.
"There is a lot of diplomatic activity going on right now because everyone knows that Obama is going to come out and say something (and) they all think they know what he will say. But nobody is sure," said another NATO official who also spoke on condition of anonymity.
So far, only Britain, Slovakia, Turkey, Georgia, South Korea and tiny Montenegro have indicated a willingness to contribute more troops to the U.S.-led force in Afghanistan.
Deputy NATO spokesman Carmen Romero said Friday that it was premature to discuss specific numbers of new NATO forces because Obama has not yet made his announcement or an appeal about how many he wants from the alliance.
NATO "hopes that the allies will follow suit and provide additional forces, but this will take some time," Romero said. "NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is urging the leaders of all countries engaged in Afghanistan to do more."