NATO willing to commit more troops to Afghanistan: Gates

February 21st, 2009 - 9:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Warsaw, Feb 21 (Prensa Latina) US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said that nearly 20 NATO countries are ready to send more troops to Afghanistan to help the government in fighting insurgency.
At least 20 countries announced at one point or another that they would be increasing their contribution in Afghanistan, Gates told a press conference after a two-day NATO meeting in Krakow in Poland Friday.

He said that this development is a good start ahead of the NATO summit in Germany and France in April.

Till date, only Italy, Germany and Ukraine have publicly announced they would send more troops to Afghanistan.

The NATO countries are helping the Afghan government to strengthen its army to tackle terrorism. Currently, the Afghan Army strength is at 79,300 and is expected to grow to 134,000 by 2011.

The alliance now has 49 teams to train the new recruits to the Afghan Army, but needs 20 more teams to help in the process.

A 25,000-strong US contingent forms the core of the NATO forces in Afghanistan and around 13,000 more US troops are independently involved in counter-terrorism operations. The rest of the 31,000 troops are deployed by NATO countries.

President Barack Obama this week ordered an additional 17,000 US soldiers to Afghanistan to tackle the resurgent Taliban in the war-torn country.

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