More NATO Help Needed in Afghanistan, Fallon Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 18, 2007 NATO needs to provide more forces to assist in ongoing security and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, the commander of U.S. Central Command said during his testimony at a Congressional hearing today.
Army Gen. Dan K. McNeill, commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, has asked NATO headquarters for more troops, Navy Adm. William J. Fallon told House Armed Services Committee members. McNeill took command of more than 30,000 NATO and U.S. troops in early February.
McNeill “is on record as asking the alliance in Brussels for additional assets,” Fallon said. “He needs them not only in terms of military forces and capabilities such as rotary-wing lift to move these forces in the field, but he also needs some help in the civilian world.”
Today, there are about 26,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Around 14,000 U.S. forces are under McNeill as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. The other 12,000 American forces in Afghanistan fall under U.S. command and are conducting special operations and Afghan army training missions.
At a February summit meeting held in Seville, Spain, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer pledged more forces would be deployed to Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urged NATO member-nations to follow through with their commitment to Afghanistan at a February security conference held in Munich, Germany.
“Going forward, it is vitally important that the success Afghanistan has achieved not be allowed to slip away through neglect or lack of political will or resolve,” Gates told NATO allies at the Munich meeting.
Top U.S. civilian and military leaders are concerned that the Taliban, the radical Islamic extremists who were kicked out of power in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, may launch a large spring offensive.
Fallon acknowledged to the House committee that some NATO member-nations have indicated they will deploy additional troops to Afghanistan.
“The (NATO) nations have said they will provide, but as yet, there are lots of folks who have yet to appear on the ground,” the admiral said. “And, this is really important if it is going to move forward.”
Fallon took over as CENTCOM’s chief March 16. Since then, he has traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern countries that come under his command’s purview.