NATO faces calls for more Afghan troops, spending
Friday, 10 October 2008

REUTERS, BUDAPEST- NATO allies face calls on Thursday to send more troops to fight Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan and boost military spending, despite the prospect of budget cuts due to the global financial crisis.

Defence ministers of the 26-nation alliance hold a two-day meeting in Budapest against a backdrop of a rise in violence in Afghanistan even though there has been a big increase in the size of the NATO-led international force in the past two years.
 
The United States has urged allies to send extra troops, and commanders of the 50,700-strong NATO force are seeking up to 12,000 more, but Washington's European allies have been reluctant to commit additional numbers.
 
NATO is also seeking to plug shortfalls in equipment such as helicopters and to resolve differences among member countries over U.S. calls for a more aggressive fight against the drugs trade that fuels the Taliban insurgency.
 
On Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet agreed to allow for an increase in German troop numbers in Afghanistan of 1,000 to up to 4,500. But Berlin has resisted Washington's calls to station troops in the insurgent-troubled south.
 
Washington has urged countries in southeastern Europe, including aspiring NATO members, to send more troops.
 
The United States plans to increase its troop strength in Afghanistan from the present 33,000, which include 13,000 under NATO command, but U.S. officials are concerned allies will see this as an excuse not to meet pledges.
 
"I want to make sure that everybody understands that the increases in U.S. forces are not seen as replacements for NATO contributions. They're reinforcement," U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters travelling with him to Budapest.

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