President Barack Obama is asking European members of NATO to contribute up to 10,000 additional troops to the international force in Afghanistan, officials with the military alliance said Tuesday.
A diplomat from a European nation said the troop figure was included in an official NATO document compiled on the basis of information received from Washington before Obama's planned announcement later Tuesday of new U.S. troop deployments.
Paris was being asked to provide 1,500 troops, said the official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter. Apart from 30,000 additional troops Obama is expected to send to Afghanistan, the French total would be the single largest new contribution to the expanded NATO-led force, the official said.
A second official, from another European NATO member nation, also said Europe was being asked for up to 10,000 more troops.
They said that although Obama wants more combat troops from the allies, the prime emphasis will be on military instructors to train the expanding Afghan army. Other top priorities will include funding to pay for the training program, the new Afghan troops, and equipment.
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.
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.
The U.S. now has 71,000 troops in Afghanistan, while other NATO members and allies collectively have 36,000 service members there. With the added forces, the international force would grow to more than 140,000 soldiers.
The Afghan army has about 94,000 troops,and the Afghan police number about 93,000 members. They face an estimated 25,000 Taliban insurgents.
At the height of the Soviet Union's war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, its forces in that country totaled 118,000 troops.