No firm offers of more NATO troops: report
CBC News | September 13, 2006
NATO member countries have failed to offer any new troops to immediately bolster its force in Afghanistan, say reports from a meeting of alliance ambassadors on Wednesday.
Afghan police seized weapons and arrested nine people Tuesday, accusing them of arranging suicide bombings and helping militants prepare for suicide attacks. (Musadeq Sadeq/Associated Press) Afghan police seized weapons and arrested nine people Tuesday, accusing them of arranging suicide bombings and helping militants prepare for suicide attacks. (Musadeq Sadeq/Associated Press)
"No formal offer were made at the table," NATO spokesman James Appathurai told reporters during a news briefing, according to Reuters.
Ambassadors from the 26 member nations met in Brussels to discuss a call from the organization's secretary general, Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan to help clear Taliban fighters from their southern strongholds.
Appathurai did say there were "positive indications" that some of the allied nations might provide additional forces, but that it could take weeks.
Canada, the U.S., Britain and the Netherlands contribute the bulk of the forces in the violent south.
Germany has said it's not prepared to move its roughly 2,200 troops from the calmer northern region to the south, while France, Spain and Italy have thousands of soldiers tied up in the UN mission in Lebanon.
NATO may look toward eastern European nations to send more troops, said Mark John, a NATO correspondent for Reuters.
There are more than 20,000 American soldiers in Afghanistan, along with a NATO-led international force of about 18,000. Canada has more than 2,000 soldiers, Britain roughly 4,000 and the Netherlands close to 2,000 soldiers in the region.
Other nations, such as Italy, Turkey, Germany and Belgium, have sizable contingents in Afghanistan's central and northern regions.
NATO leaders had been asking for 2,500 more soldiers.
Taliban suffering, says NATO
Appathurai said it is vital to stem the growth of the Taliban in Afghanistan, which he called the "cradle of 9/11.
"We are inflicting much heavier casualties on the Taliban than they are inflicting on us," said Appathurai.
"This is a fight that has to be won. That is why we're doing it and that is why the secretary general is calling for more solidarity from NATO countries."
NATO officials said Wednesday that Operation Medusa, a massive anti-Taliban campaign launched in early September, has killed more than 500 suspected Taliban fighters in the region west of Kandahar.
Five Canadians have died during the operation, including four in battle against the Taliban and one when U.S. jets mistakenly fired on a Canadian platoon.
NATO commanders have made it clear they have enough troops to maintain the current operations in southern Afghanistan, but say more troops would help them get the job done quicker and with fewer casualties.
More suicide bombings: NATO
The meeting comes the same day NATO warned of an increase in Iraqi-style suicide bombings in Afghanistan.
Since the beginning of the year, suicide bombings have killed 173 people, including 151 Afghan civilians and children. The rest included NATO and other international forces, as well as Afghan officials.
"Such blatant disregard for human life and potential undertaken by insurgents who callously ask to be called mujahedeen [holy warriors] cannot be more clear," Maj. Luke Knittig, a NATO spokesman, told reporters in Kabul Wednesday.
Taliban-led militants in Afghanistan increasingly have been using Iraqi-style tactics, including suicide, car and roadside bombings, in a bid to topple the U.S.-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.
At least five Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have died in suicide attacks in Afghanistan since the mission started in 2002. In total, 33 Canadians have been killed in the Afghan mission.
The U.S. military recently warned a Kabul-based suicide bombing cell was planning to target foreign troops.
With files from The Associated Press.