NATO members to add 7,000 troops in Afghanistan

The alliance's secretary-general says at least 25 nations will provide additional soldiers next year. Britain, Italy, Slovakia and Poland will take part, but France and Germany have yet to commit.

December 05, 2009|By Paul Richter
  • "Our people are weary of war," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, seen here with counterparts at NATO headquarters in Brussels. "But we cannot ignore reality."
"Our people are weary of war," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary… (Geert Vanden Wijngaert…)

Reporting from Washington — Under strong pressure from the Obama administration, NATO said Friday that its members would add 7,000 soldiers to the 40,000 non-American allied troops already in Afghanistan.

The new troop commitment, announced at a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels, includes about 2,500 soldiers who are already in the Central Asian nation, many of whom were sent for the recent elections and will stay on.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's secretary-general, told reporters at the alliance's headquarters that at least 25 nations would provide the additional troops next year, "with more to come."

Friday's pledge was 2,000 troops higher than the number he had forecast this week.

Britain, which has 9,000 troops in Afghanistan, previously announced that it would be contributing an additional 500 troops.

Italy, Slovakia and Poland are also known to have agreed to increase their forces.

Two other major players, France and Germany, have also been asked to provide thousands of additional troops, but their response is not likely to be known for weeks. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said that with the country's military overstretched, he would be unable to provide more.

The Obama administration has been eager to demonstrate that its allies are willing to step up their effort at a time when the United States has pledged to add at least 30,000 troops to its 68,000 already in Afghanistan.

But many other NATO countries put limits on their soldiers' participation in combat, making them less valuable from the U.S. perspective.

Nonetheless, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who attended Friday's meeting, praised the allies for the service in Afghanistan over the last eight years.

"Today, our people are weary of war," she said. "But we cannot ignore reality. The extremists continue to target innocent people and sow destruction across continents. From the remote mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan, they plot future attacks.

"As Secretary-General Rasmussen said earlier this week, 'This is our fight, together.' And we must finish it together."

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