Commander Calls for Larger NATO Footprint in Afghanistan
By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 24, 2009 NATO’s top commander today called for NATO nations to beef up their efforts in Afghanistan to support security and rebuilding efforts there.
Referring to a “shortfall” of NATO-embedded training teams, U.S. Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that “NATO needs to step up, fill their responsibility.”
NATO countries have contributed 13 training teams to keep up with the accelerated growth of Afghan security forces, Craddock said. NATO’s efforts are expected to grow to 29 teams by December 2010, he said. That number is based on the target goal set by the Afghan defense minister to grow the Afghan army from 82,000 to 134,000 by 2011.
Meanwhile, the 17,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines scheduled to bulk up force presence in southern Afghanistan this spring and summer will more than likely cover a dual mission to make up for the NATO shortfall, the general said. Many of the additional U.S. forces will be combat forces but also trainers and mentors for their Afghan counterparts.
“The U.S. provides teams when NATO doesn’t,” he said.
U.S. forces also would like to see more NATO combat forces in Afghanistan, he said.
Requests for more NATO troops are expected to be filled in Afghanistan’s northern and western regions, but in the volatile southern part of the country, Craddock said he is less optimistic. He’s been working with the United Kingdom and remains hopeful for their assistance, but still called the situation “problematic.”
“I’m hopeful for contributions by the United Kingdom, but that’s problematic right now,” he said. “We’re still working on that. We are short two battalions in the south that we need to generate between now and August.”
Eucom’s efforts to improve partnerships among European nations are increasingly important, because “in today’s world, nations are repeatedly called on to do more,” Craddock said.
“The multinational operations of today and tomorrow succeed only if allies can work together effectively,” he said. “Their interoperability and increased partner capacity are essential, and [Eucom’s] presence is indispensable.”
European nations make up most of the 42 countries operating under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, and slightly more than half of the 61,000 coalition troops there. U.S. forces provide the majority of combat forces and Afghan military trainers with about 30,000 troops in addition to the 17,000 to deploy there in the coming months.