NATO Seeks More Trainers for Afghan Army, Police
Alliance members have indicated they would commit the numbers needed, but it remains unclear if they will have enough trainers with the qualifications requested by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, in his appeal for at least 2,000 new trainers and mentors to work with the Afghan army and police.
"The focus is absolutely on the trainers," said Col. Greg Julian, spokesman for NATO's supreme military command.
European allies in December pledged more than 7,000 more soldiers for the international force in Afghanistan. With the 30,000 U.S. reinforcements committed by President Barack Obama, the total number of foreign troops should reach about 140,000 members by next summer.
The strategy is to eventually hand over responsibility for the war against Taliban militants to Afghan government troops, but the allied training mission is still short by more than 100 training teams.
With European capitals tightening defense budgets and growing public opposition to what many see as an unwinnable war, NATO hopes to see the Afghan National Army grow from about 97,000 troops to 171,600 by the end of next year, and the Afghan National Police from about 94,000 officers to 134,000.
Within five years, the Afghan security force should reach 240,000 soldiers and the police 160,000.
In a dramatic political fallout, the Dutch government collapsed Saturday after Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende tried to amend an agreement to bring the Netherlands' 2,000-strong contingent home this year. A majority of the Dutch parliament during a debate last week had backed the withdrawal.
The Dutch crisis has prompted fears that other NATO nations could rethink their commitments to the eight-year war. Canada also plans to remove its 2,800 troops from the country by next year.
Tuesday's staff-level meeting in the Belgian city of Mons is part of a regular series of "force-generation" conferences aimed at getting personnel for all NATO missions, including those in Kosovo, the anti-piracy naval patrols off the Somali coast and an anti-terrorist naval force in the Mediterranean.
Associated Press Writer Robert H. Reid in Kabul contributed to this report.