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More trainers needed

February 4, 2010

Member states have made available nearly all the extra combat troops requested by NATO for Afghanistan. The alliance's head said he will now push defense ministers for more trainers.

German troops on patrol
Troop levels will remain on the agenda at the meetingImage: picture alliance/dpa

NATO defense ministers on Wednesday began two day of talks in Istanbul that will touch on restructuring the alliance, troop levels in Kosovo and the ongoing United Nations-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan.

While many of the involved countries have provided more combat troops, fulfilling a target set by ISAF's commander, US General Stanley McChrystal, it doesn't mean there won't be calls for more.

"Allies and partners have made significant contributions, but it isn't yet sufficient," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a news briefing on Monday. He said more contributions may be needed, especially in the area of police and military training.

"This training mission is of utmost importance to accomplish the strategy we all agree on," he said. "The more we invest in this transition now, the sooner the day when the Afghans can take responsibility themselves."

Thousands more needed

According to Rasmussen, NATO needs 21 more army training teams and more than 100 police training teams if they are to get Afghan forces up to the levels currently required. Each police training team consists of 20 to 30 trainers.

Afghan police officers during a training with German policer teachers
Germany has already begun shifting its focus in Afghanistan to police trainingImage: AP

Officials say the police training is difficult. Like more than half of Afghans, many police recruits cannot read and must spend months in the classroom learning to read well enough to understand drivers licenses and identity papers before they begin their eight-week police course.

The European Union has promised to send 400 police trainers. But European police must volunteer to be sent to Afghanistan, and only about 240 have done so - apparently due to safety concerns.

Troop reductions in Kosovo

On Thursday night the defense ministers are set to discuss spending and streamlining NATO's structures. The talks on Afghanistan are scheduled for Friday morning, with McChrystal to attend along with the non-NATO members taking part in ISAF, outgoing UN Special Envoy in Kabul Kai Eide and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Also on the agenda for Friday is Kosovo. On Monday it was decided to reduce troops there to 10,200, and the ministers are set to confirm those numbers will drop even further, to 5,700, by the end of the year if the region remains calm.

Editor: Rob Turner