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US Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Calls on NATO to Do More in Afghanistan

By Al Pessin
Pentagon
01 February 2008

The top U.S. military officer says Afghanistan is facing a 'classic, growing insurgency,' and NATO needs to focus on what kind of force it needs to deploy to fight it. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, says Afghanistan faces significant challenges and the United States is determined to help meet them.

"It's not Iraq, but it is also not forgotten," he said. "I remain committed, the U.S. military remains committed, to our mission in Afghanistan and to helping our NATO allies defeat what I've described as a classic, growing insurgency."

But Admiral Mullen chided NATO allies for not matching the U.S. commitment.

Recent statements by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and letters he sent to his NATO counterparts last month, have generated considerable controversy going into next week's NATO defense ministers' meeting in Lithuania. On Friday, German officials rejected Gates' call for several thousand more German troops. But Admiral Mullen said NATO allies have made a commitment to Afghanistan, and need to follow through with more than just rhetoric.

"We've committed American forces ourselves, 3,200 Marines," he said. "It isn't just rhetoric from our point of view. And we need that kind of assistance from those other countries, including Germany."

Admiral Mullen was referring to the additional deployment announced last month, which would raise the U.S. troop total in Afghanistan to 30,000.

Other NATO countries do have thousands of troops in Afghanistan, but only a few countries engage directly in combat. Canada has said it will withdraw its combat troops next year if other countries do not send forces to help it in the volatile southern region. And the United States says other countries need to make plans to replace the extra Marines when their tour of duty ends in November.

Asked about sending combat troops to Afghanistan during a visit to the Pentagon on Thursday, France's defense minister would only say Afghanistan needs more help with its political and economic development.



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