Thursday, January 31, 2008

NATO hears Canada's frustration on Afghanistan

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO said on Tuesday it shared Canada's view of the need to bolster its Afghan peace operation but dismissed charges that allies were dragging their feet, pointing to a huge expansion since 2003.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper threatened on Monday to pull its 2,500 troops out of Afghanistan early next year unless NATO sends significant reinforcements, saying the mission would fail unless more soldiers and equipment arrived.

"We share the assessment that Afghanistan needs long-term support, including military support. NATO as an organization has had a longstanding request for more troops in the south," a NATO spokesman said of the violent region where Canada operates.

But he noted the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had more than quadrupled in size to over 40,000 troops and "is now close to what our military believe is our full requirement."

Canada's appeal for reinforcements adds to frustration voiced by other countries taking part in the mission. In November, the Netherlands decided to keep its troops in Afghanistan despite growing public pressure for it to pull out. Read more..;_ylt=Am37w0QvkjQjCgIqJLGKIqNvaA8F

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