NATO Leaders to Discuss Afghanistan Mission, Support Needed
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2006 NATO leaders will meet in New York later this week to discuss the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force effort in Afghanistan and the best way to meet its outstanding requirements.
The NATO leaders are slated to meet while in New York for the opening of the 61st session of the U.N. General Assembly.
NATO has assumed the security mission in southern Afghanistan, U.S. Marine Gen. James L. Jones, NATO’s top military officer, reported last month while in Washington. The alliance now has responsibility for about 80 percent of the nation and is slated to assume command for the rest of the country by the year’s end, he said.
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has called the alliance’s mission in Afghanistan its most important and has urged more contributions from its 26 member nations.
“This is probably the most important mission NATO has done in many years,” reiterated Bryan Whitman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said today. “This is a bold and aggressive mission, an out-of-area mission, and a mission that needs the resources that were outlined in the combined joint statement of requirements.”
Whitman expressed hope that NATO members will step forward to provide needed capabilities.
The United States, with 21,000 troops in Afghanistan, is the largest contributor to Operation Enduring Freedom in both troops and capability, he noted.
Jones noted during a Pentagon press briefing last month that Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia, Estonia and the United States now contribute about 6,000 troops in southern Afghanistan.
In addition, Poland offered last week to contribute more troops to the mission, and about 100 additional Australian soldiers arrived in southern Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province last week.
NATO nations are also being asked to review the restrictions they place on their troops assigned to the ISAF mission. Eliminating some of those will give British Army Lt. Gen. David J. Richards, the ISAF commander, more flexibility and an ability to do things faster, Whitman said.
Whitman acknowledged that every NATO nation faces the challenge in Afghanistan from its own perspective and contributes to that challenge accordingly. “Every nation wakes up in a different part of the world with different concerns of their citizenry, but this is an important mission and NATO has realized that this is an important mission and has stepped up to the plate,” he said.