Robert Gates hints at five more brigades for Afghan ’surge’

November 22nd, 2008 - 1:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Nov 22 (IANS) US Defence Secretary Roberts Gates has hinted that five more combat brigades were likely to be sent to Afghanistan early next year to fight the resurgent insurgency.Speaking at a two-day informal meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) defence ministers at the Canadian city of Cornwallis Friday, Gates said these brigades will be in addition to the extra marine brigade already sent to the region.

Gates said the defence ministers discussed the proposed troop surge in Afghanistan before the presidential elections in that country next year.

“We are clearly going to be putting more troops in and I think that the prospects for being able to have these elections successfully are good,” said Gates.

Though intelligence reports say insurgency and violence in Afghanistan have reach record levels since 2001, Gates said: “The notion that things are out of control in Afghanistan or that we’re sliding toward a disaster I think is far too pessimistic.”

Welcoming the proposed US surge in Afghanistan, Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay urged President-elect Barak Obama to seek more troops from other NATO countries for the mission.

Without naming any nation, the Canadian defence minister said while some countries were carrying a “disproportionate share of the load” in Afghanistan, others were not doing enough for the Afghan mission.

“Other countries should be under no illusion. We’re still asking for them to pick up the slack and share the burden,” he said.

“The reality is there are other NATO doors that president-elect Obama should be knocking on first,” said MacKay, adding that “not just military contributions, but other contributions that can be made to help the (Afghan) cause”.

Canada, which has about 2,500 troops deployed in Afghanistan’s volatile Kandahar province, has been demanding more deployment by other NATO countries. The Canadian mission in Afghanistan ends in December 2011.

“Canada will be concluding its combat involvement in 2011 and we want to contribute as much as possible to the ability of the Afghans to defend themselves,” said MacKay.

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