NATO’s top official said on Friday that at least 25 countries will send a total of about 7,000 additional forces to Afghanistan next year “with more to come,” as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, sought to bolster the allied resolve.
“With the right resources, we can succeed,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told a news conference after allied foreign ministers met with representatives of non-NATO countries that have forces in Afghanistan.
Ms. Clinton, who participated in the session, also was making a pitch to a NATO-only meeting later on Friday for further support of the U.S. war plan.
Ms. Clinton told reporters travelling with her from Washington that she was encouraged by an expected series of announcements by allied nations of additional military, civilian and financial support in Afghanistan.
Mr. Fogh Rasmussen told an opening session at NATO headquarters that he hoped allied governments would answer President Barack Obama’s call for additional support. The coming year, he predicted, “will see a new momentum in this mission.”
Ms. Clinton was attending a string of meetings here with allied foreign ministers and with representatives of non-NATO countries that have troops in Afghanistan, plus Russia. She sought to rally support for Mr. Obama’s revamped war strategy, which banks on major new allied contributions, not just to escalate the combat effort but also to bolster civilian functions and provide more development aid.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top American commander in Afghanistan, also was attending the meeting of NATO’s main political council to explain the 43-nation military mission, which he has sought to revise and reinforce since he took over command last June. He has described conditions in the fight against Taliban extremists - now in its ninth year - as serious and deteriorating.
Allied governments need to be able to sell their publics on the idea of enlarging the war, and particularly those countries in which political parties share power have to be sure “the political stars are in alignment” before they announce new commitments, Ms. Clinton said.
The British foreign secretary, David Miliband, sketched out the threat to Europe posed by Afghanistan’s instability.
“We all know that in the 1990s, Afghanistan was the incubator of international terrorism, the incubator of choice for global jihad,” he said. “The badlands of the Afghan-Pakistan border are a threat to people everywhere, whatever their religion, and that’s why it’s very important that we make progress.”
Ms. Clinton departed the U.S. capital on Thursday shortly after testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where she joined Defence Secretary Robert Gates, and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in defending the president’s decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
Ms. Clinton told reporters she was pleased that allies have responded positively to the Obama plan.
Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said on Wednesday that the allies will contribute at least 5,000 more troops to the war effort “and probably a few thousand more.”
The U.S. now has about 71,000 troops in Afghanistan, while 42 other NATO and non-NATO nations have a total of 38,000 troops there. They are fighting a far smaller collection of Taliban militants who enjoy a haven across the border in Pakistan.
European countries have been reluctant to add large numbers of soldiers to a war that often looks unwinnable and to support an Afghan government tainted by corruption and election fraud. Some leaders are waiting for an international conference on Afghanistan in London in late January before promising any more troops.
Asked about the criticism that has focused on Mr. Obama’s decision to announce a date in 2011 to begin the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, Ms. Clinton said that it has been misunderstood by some and that others were simply seeking to create a controversy.
She also took a gentle stab at the Bush administration’s approach to running the war. She said Afghanistan’s defence chief had told her last month that for the first time he felt like a full participant in the NATO military structure, as a result of changes made by Commander McChrystal, who was appointed to the top command by Obama several months after he took office. Referring to the more limited Afghan participation before Commander McChrystal’s arrival, she said, “That’s a little bit discouraging, when one looks back.”
Ms. Clinton also was scheduled to meet separately in Brussels Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, for eleventh-hour talks on a follow-on to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty that expires on Friday.