Afghanistan war: Brown's call signals NATO ready to boost forces
Britain's Gordon Brown on Friday called on NATO countries to send 5,000 more troops for Afghanistan war. It's one sign that NATO may be willing to commit more forces to that war than expected.
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Some of the shift in attitude may have been influenced by US Gen. Stanley McChrystal's last-minute pitch to an informal meeting of NATO defense ministers in Bratislava, Slovakia, last month. McChrystal's counterinsurgency plan for Afghanistan envisions a need for about 40,000 additional troops. Since that meeting, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has appeared to favor greater NATO commitment.Skip to next paragraph
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"All nations should re-examine what further resources they could make available in terms of military, financial, or civilian contributions to help the Afghans take an increasing lead in managing their own affairs," Mr. Rasmussen said Nov. 6.
Also, the German defense minister recently made a significant rhetorical shift by calling the Afghan mission "warlike" for the first time, say US officials.
Germany, which is the third largest contributor of forces to Afghanistan with about 4,500 troops, has long been criticized for confining its mission largely to training Afghan forces and leaving most combat-related missions to other forces.
On Friday, Germany said it would send 120 more combat-troops in January to reinforce a rapid-reaction unit there.
It's unclear if Germany would be willing to send more troops, but it may have to consider loosening the restrictions that keep its forces in noncombat roles, says Constanze Stelzenmüller, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, which promotes cooperation between Europe and North America.
"I think that this is the only place where something can give at this point," she says.
Waiting for Obama's decision
Obama is reportedly still dissatisfied with the strategic options before him, which range from a smaller commitment of between 10,000 and 15,000 troops to a larger one, favored by his generals, of 40,000 troops.
Last week, the Pentagon's top policy official, Michèle Flournoy, and other uniformed officials met with military leaders in Europe in an unannounced meeting designed to "hold ground" there as the Obama administration finishes its deliberations on the war strategy. It appears that European leaders are more receptive to the Obama administration's requests for help than the previous White House, which had alienated some NATO countries.
When Obama's decision comes – most likely after his ongoing week-long Asia trip – the international community may be more willing to follow suit. "This is classic high-stakes poker right now," says the US diplomat in Europe.
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