U.S. NATO envoy calls for more troops in Afghanistan


By Kate Kelland
Wednesday, September 13, 2006; 7:04 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - NATO allies must fulfill their commitment to the future stability of Afghanistan by dispatching more troops to fight insurgents, Washington's ambassador to the alliance said on Wednesday.

Victoria Nuland praised the U.S., Britain, Canada and the Netherlands for their combat efforts in Afghanistan, but urged other members of the 26-nation alliance to reinforce political and logistical support with military commitments.

"What we are looking to do is to put more forces in so that we can turn the tide faster," she told BBC radio. "The issue here ... is the fighting capability and the fighting willingness of all allies."

NATO troops have been drawn into bloody combat with Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan -- particularly in the more volatile south -- in recent weeks and commanders on the ground have voiced concerns about troop capacity.

The Taliban are now the most active they have been since being toppled by a U.S.-led coalition in 2001 in the wake of the September 11 attacks by the group's al Qaeda allies.

More than 2,000 people -- rebels, civilians and Afghan and foreign troops -- have been killed in fighting this year.

NATO's top commander of operations General James Jones has called for reinforcements for Afghanistan but has had no firm response so far.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman played down any prospect of Britain sending more troops.

"We have made our contribution and ... if you talk to NATO they recognize that," he told reporters.

Britain already has around 4,000 soldiers serving in the country as part of NATO's peace force.

"The U.S., the UK, Canada, the Dutch, have been in the tough, pointy end of this fight and more allies need to be willing to be ... in the fighting," Nuland said.

She urged NATO members to respond quickly to the immediate need in Afghanistan, and also said the alliance's future would depend on greater European military capacity.

"In addition to the political will to go where it is necessary, we also need ... over the longer term to continue to build European defenses and European armies so that more of our allies have more capable troops who can do these kinds of missions," she said. "In the world we are living in that is the NATO that we need."