US Allies Pledge 7,000 More Troops for Afghanistan
David Gollust | Brussels 04 December 2009
NATO countries and other contributors to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, ISAF, Friday pledged to provide about 7,000 additional troops to supplement the new U.S. troop commitment to Afghanistan. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told allied foreign ministers in Brussels the influx of troops will "change the dynamics" in parts of the troubled country.
Specific announcements from individual countries are not expected before a NATO force-generation conference next week in Belgium.
But NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says the collective pledges made at a closed-door meeting of NATO and other ISAF foreign ministers shows the 44 countries with forces in Afghanistan remain "absolutely united" in the mission.
"At least 25 countries will send more forces to the mission in 2010. They have offered around 7,000 new forces with more to come," the secretary-general announced. "Counting the U.S. contribution, that means ISAF will have at least 37,000 more soldiers in 2010 than it did this year. That is solidarity in action and it will have a powerful effect on the ground."
The ISAF participants heard an appeal by Secretary of State Clinton to support the Afghan strategy announced earlier this week by President Barack Obama, which relies on major new contributions from U.S. allies not just in troop numbers but also increased security training and civilian support for the Afghan government.
In an appeal to fellow ministers, the text of which was released by U.S. officials, Clinton said she is confident that the addition of 30,000 U.S. troops will "change the dynamics" in parts of Afghanistan and said more ISAF troops will open the way to an earlier handover of security responsibilities to Afghan forces.
The Secretary of State said while the need for additional forces is urgent, their presence will not be indefinite.
She reaffirmed Mr. Obama's commitment to a transition timeframe that begins in July of 2011 but made clear that there will be no precipitous withdrawal and said the U.S. diplomatic, political and economic stake in the region "will endure."
The same theme was sounded by NATO chief Rasmussen in public remarks.
"Transition doesn't mean exit. There should be no misunderstanding. We are not going to leave Afghanistan to fall back into the hands of terrorists and the extremists who host them. It will not happen," Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen, the former Danish Prime Minister, outlined what he described as a new road map for NATO operations in Afghanistan that would involve a new focus on protecting the Afghan people, and a new policy to actively support the reintegration of Taliban fighters who lay down their arms.
Clinton, in her closed door statement, said the United States has "real concerns" about the influence of corrupt officials in the Afghan government and said President Hamid Karzai's stated commitment to combat corruption and improve governance "must now be matched with action."
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