How Will NATO Add 7,000?
Twenty-five countries have announced that they will deploy additional troops next year, and more contributions are expected “during the coming weeks and months,” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
However, officials were still trying to nail down some of the promises.
And well they might. At least 700 of the additional troops that Britain will supply are the 700 that were already deployed in Afghanistan to provide security for the elections. Holland and Canada continue to say that they plan to remove the troops that they currently have in Afghanistan. France and Germany continue to demur, saying that they’ll wait until after the meetings in late January of next year:
There are currently roughly 4,300 German soldiers in Afghanistan, and Berlin says it won’t consider increasing that figure until after an international conference in January. Holbrooke, in turn, has insisted that the US is not disappointed with Chancellor Angela Merkel: “The German army has lost more than 30 soldiers in Afghanistan, and that is historic. So I understand the chancellor’s stance. Germany’s presence in northern Afghanistan is extremely important. It remains up to the Germans themselves to determine what further actions they will take.”
Italy has committed an additional 1,000, fewer than the 1,500 for which it was asked:
On Thursday, Italian Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa confirmed that Rome would send around 1,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, raising its presence to roughly 3,700. La Russa told the Corriere della Sera newspaper that the previously reported figure of 1,500 extra soldiers was “a maximum quota which we would never reach.”
Portugal has committed to sending an additional 150 soldiers from its rapid deployment force.
Turkey, NATO’s only member with a Muslim majority, has flatly refused to send troops for combat operations:
ANKARA, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) — Turkey responded coolly to the United States’ request for more Turkish forces to be deployed to Afghanistan as officials emphasized the country’s policy of keeping its troops out of combat operations in the war-torn country, said local Hurriyet Daily News on its website on Thursday.
Turkey increased its troops in Afghanistan by sending 958 more soldiers last month, said Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul late Wednesday.
“We maintain our reservations about Turkish troops’ involvement in military operations and combat in Afghanistan,” Gonul said.
In a written statement late Wednesday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry expressed hopes that U.S. President Barack Obama’s new strategy would bring peace and stability to Afghanistan and vowed to increase its contribution, but in terms of “training and reconstruction works.”
“Obama is asking for combat forces who will engage in armed clashes. But it is clear-cut that we do not have such an opportunity,” a Turkish diplomat, who asked not to be identified, said Thursday.
I’m surprised at how little attention this particular news item has received in the United States.
The Turkish soldiers currently in Afghanistan are primarily providing police protection in Kabul.
NATO has 28 member countries. With Germany, Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Canada all unlikely to provide additional troops, particularly combat troops, that accounts for the richest and/or largest countries in the alliance (other than the US). President Obama’s speech on Tuesday may well have been pragmatic but it was certainly ambivalent, one foot poised on the entrance with the other foot headed for the exit. Not exactly the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V, not a call to arms, and not very likely to promote confidence among our NATO allies. Support for the war in Afghanistan has been flagging among Americans for some time and it’s even less popular among our NATO allies.