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NATO Chief Predicts ‘Substantially More Troops’ in Afghanistan

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2009 – NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen today predicted the alliance’s future mission in Afghanistan will entail a counterinsurgency approach with “substantially more troops.”

The NATO chief, speaking to the alliance’s Parliamentary Assembly, said he expects NATO will reach a troop-level decision in a few weeks for the International Security Assistance Force it leads in Afghanistan.

“I’m confident it will be a counterinsurgency approach, with substantially more troops, and will place the Afghan population at the core of ISAF’s collective effort by focusing on their safety, and by supporting reconstruction and development,” he said.

Rasmussen’s remarks in Edinburgh, Scotland, today come as President Barack Obama and his advisors continue to debate the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, reportedly debating a full spectrum of options concerning strategy and force levels.

U.S. defense officials, including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, have criticized NATO allies for creating a “two-tiered alliance” -- with the U.S. and a select other countries bearing most of the burden of combat and other aspects of the mission in Afghanistan, while other nations make lesser contributions.

In his first appearance before the 28-member Parliamentary Assembly, Rasmussen today called on the political leaders of NATO countries to put forth more resources for the multilateral effort in the Central Asian country.

“I want to use this opportunity to strongly encourage you, and your governments, to make more military resources available – extra combat forces for ISAF, extra troops for enhanced partnership and teaming with the Afghan national security forces, and extra troops for training, particularly through the NATO training mission in Afghanistan,” he said.

“I firmly believe that we can continue to make progress – significant progress - if we can close the gap between the resources which the commander of ISAF currently has available, and those he actually requires to do his job,” he added.

Rasmussen also expressed confidence that the international force would gain new momentum soon.

“I know that some people are concerned not just about the costs of the operation, but also about its future direction. Again, I understand why,” Rasmussen told the assembly. “But people should be reassured that soon there will be new momentum.”

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