Page last updated at 15:47 GMT, Friday, 4 December 2009

Nato allies to send extra 7,000 troops to Afghanistan

Rasmussen: 'We can succeed'

Nato's top official says countries will send at least 7,000 extra troops to support the US surge in Afghanistan.

Speaking at a Nato summit in Brussels, Anders Fogh Rasmussen said there would be "more [troops] to come".

"At least 25 countries will send more forces to the mission in 2010," the Nato secretary general told reporters.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the response from Nato allies as "positive", and urged them to rally behind the new US Afghan strategy.

Some major countries are holding back, however. France and Germany, for instance, have not yet committed themselves to sending extra troops.

Meanwhile more than 1,000 Nato soldiers, most of them from the US, as well as Afghan troops, launched a major offensive in southern Afghanistan on Friday.

A US military spokesman said Operation Cobra's Anger in the northern part of Helmand province was aimed at cutting off insurgent supply and communication lines.

'Solidarity in action'

Earlier this week, US President Barack Obama announced he was sending an additional 30,000 troops to help battle the Taliban insurgency.

US calling for about 10,000 extra foreign troops
Nato expects 7,000 troops from 25 of 43 nations in Afghanistan
Not all have gone public with their intentions
Britain has pledged extra 500; Italy "about 1,000"; Poland 600; Portugal 150; Spain 200; Slovakia 250; Macedonia 80
Non-Nato member Georgia sending 900, South Korea 500
France still considering response; Germany may delay decision until January 2010

The US is calling on allies among the 43 nations with troops in Afghanistan to send about 10,000 extra soldiers.

Speaking at the Brussels talks, Mrs Clinton urged Nato and its partners to rally behind a new strategy to combat the insurgency and to "finish it together".

She said it was essential additional forces and non-military assistance be provided as quickly as possible.

"The need for additional forces is urgent, but their presence will not be indefinite," she told the meeting of Nato foreign ministers and representatives of non-Nato countries that have forces in Afghanistan.

Mr Rasmussen told delegates at Nato HQ that the coming year would "see a new momentum in this mission".

The BBC's Nick Childs, in Brussels, says the main thrust of Mr Rasmussen's speech was to insist on a message of solidarity, despite the challenges, and of unity behind the mission.

"In addition to the clear pledges already tabled, we have heard indications... that other allies and partners will probably be in a position to announce contributions in the coming weeks and months," Mr Rasmussen said.

"Isaf [International Security Assistance Force] will have at least 37,000 more soldiers in 2010 than it did this year.

"That is solidarity in action."

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the US was "extremely pleased" by Nato's promised contribution.

Warning for Kabul

But many Nato governments face publics even more sceptical about the mission than those of the US and Britain.

Italian soldier in Herat, west of Kabul, 3 Dec 2009
Italy has promised to send about 1,000 more troops to Afghanistan

Even if more public announcements are forthcoming, turning these into firm pledges of the right troops at the right time and for the right missions may take longer, our correspondent adds.

Mr Rasmussen said several countries had pledged additional funds for development assistance as part of the mission's new approach in providing basic services to benefit the local people in Afghanistan.

But he warned that Kabul had to play its part in the reconstruction process.

"None of these initiatives are of any use if it is not backed up by good governance, efficient governance in Afghanistan, including a determined fight against corruption, a determined fight against the drug trade," he said.

"So the international community stands ready to assist Afghanistan in promoting economic and social development but it also takes a strong effort from the Afghan people and not least the Afghan government."

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