NATO Seeks More Burden-Sharing in Afghanistan | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 22.12.2008
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NATO Seeks More Burden-Sharing in Afghanistan

NATO called for other members to follow the US in committing more troops to Afghanistan, while Britain's defense secretary compared the engagement there to fighting the Nazis.

An Afghan man looks on as he waits for his turn at a free medical camp organized by International Security Assistance Force on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, April 2, 2008.

NATO troops set up medical stations for Afghanis, like this man who is waiting for aid

The US needs NATO to commit more forces to Afghanistan in order to ensure the burden of the battle against militants is properly shared, the alliance said on Sunday, Dec. 21.

On Saturday, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said Washington plans to send between 20,000 and 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan by the beginning of next summer to combat a growing Taliban insurgency in the east and south.

Seeking a 'tipping point'

NATO spokesman James Appathurai told Reuters news service that the additional US troops would go a long way to meeting the needs assessment of U.S. Army General David McKiernan, commander of international forces in Afghanistan. But he said other allies still had to do more, he said.

Afghanistan NATO General David McKiernan

McKiernan wants to clear areas -- and hold on to them

McKiernan has said he wants the extra forces to reach a "tipping point" against the Taliban and no longer wants to launch operations to clear an area unless he has forces to hold onto it and bring in aid and development.

Appathurai told Reuters: "(NATO) Secretary General (Jaap de Hoop Scheffer) would like to see an increase, not only from the Americans, but also from other allies, in particular the Europeans, to ensure we have a political, as well as a military, sharing of burdens within this mission."

The US already has some 31,000 troops in Afghanistan, out of a total foreign force there of more than 65,000 from over 40 nations.

Comparing Taliban to Nazis

Britain has the second biggest force at 8,700, more than twice as many troops as next-in-line Germany, France, Canada and Italy.

Meanwhile, in an interview on Saturday, Dec. 20, with the Times newspaper, British Defense Secretary John Hutton compared fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan to fighting against the Nazis. He said Western forces faced a long fight to defeat insurgents in Afghanistan.

Britain's soldiers of the Royal Anglian Regiment, known as The Vikings, look at a map at the town of Gereshk in Helmand province, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, after coming under fire from Taliban militants Monday, April 30, 2007.

British troops are mainly based in the dangerous south

In the interview, Hutton said troops in the violence-scarred country were defending British values in the same way they did in World War II.

"We know that we must tackle the threat at source, it is not just going to go away," he said. "It is a struggle against fanatics that may not challenge our borders but challenges our way of life in the same way the Nazis did."

After Prime Minister Gordon Brown confirmed on Thursday that most British forces would pull out of Iraq by the end of July next year, Hutton said troops would be in Afghanistan for the long haul.

"We will stay there as long as is necessary to secure all of our objectives -- it's going to be years," the minister said.

Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown delivers a speech at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in central London, Monday, June 23, 2008.

Brown says Britain will leave Iraq

Long-term engagement

Hutton's words hint at the government's willingness to add more troops to its existing 8,000-strong contingent in Afghanistan, where fighting against a resurgent Taliban has cost the lives of 134 servicemen.

British troops are mainly based in the southern province of Helmand, which has seen some of the worst Taliban attacks.

Hutton said: "The key thing now is not that the Taliban or Al-Qaeda can defeat us in Afghanistan, their tactic is to outlast us.

"That's what we've got to deal with. That's the nature of this counter-insurgency operation... It doesn't lend itself to instantaneous results."

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