Bush calls for more NATO troops in Afghanistan

March 2nd, 2008 - 8:15 am ICT by admin  

Washington, March 2 (DPA) US President George W. Bush and Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen have said that NATO countries should send more troops to Afghanistan. Bush, at his Texas ranch with Rasmussen, said Saturday that he expected NATO allies to make greater contributions in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.

“Look, if we’re going to fight as an alliance, let’s fight as an alliance,” Bush said.

The US and other NATO countries have been frustrated by reluctance of some allies to contribute more troops or lift restrictions that limit them to relatively safe peacekeeping and training missions in northern parts of the country.

US, British, Canadian, Danish and Dutch forces have been involved in heavy fighting against the Taliban in the south, while Germany, France, Italy and Spain have limited the role of their forces.

“We need more troops in Afghanistan,” Rasmussen said.

He said Denmark had increased its commitment by 50 percent to show a “good example” to other NATO members.

The issue has created tension in the alliance. US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has used straightforward language in pressing his NATO counterparts to support stronger deployments.

Gates has ordered an additional 3,200 Marines to Afghanistan to help fill the gap, which would bring the total US presence to 29,000 soldiers, about half of them under NATO command. There are about 44,000 total NATO forces in Afghanistan. NATO has requested a 7,500 more soldiers to fend off the Taliban.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is weighing sending an additional 1,000 troops to Afghanistan on top of the 3,500 already there, but the reinforcements would fall under the same restrictions against deployment in combat zones.

Rasmussen has been one of Bush’s few allies in Western Europe. Demark backed the invasion of Iraq, although it recently pulled its troops out. Danish troops have suffered casualties fighting alongside the other NATO countries in southern Afghanistan.

Rasmussen’s invitation to Bush’s ranch symbolizes their close relationship. He arrived Friday and went bike riding with the president before the two met reporters Saturday afternoon.

Bush Friday met with NATO Secretary Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who has been lobbying NATO countries for additional troops. De Hoop Scheffer said the alliance is winning the fight but also cautioned that NATO is in it “for the long haul”.

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