Miliband challenges NATO allies over Afghanistan troops

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The Independent Online

Foreign Secretary David Miliband today challenged the rest of the Nato allies to do "the maximum possible" to support efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan.

He was speaking as Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen declared after talks in Brussels that there were now enough pledges from alliance countries to help boost European Nato forces by 7,000 next year.

The promised increase, if translated into troops on the ground, answers US President Barack Obama's call for the European Nato allies to do their bit in the wake of an extra 30,000 troops being sent by Washington.

The pledges came at talks between Nato foreign ministers, where Mr Miliband urged more progress to deal with the continuing threat from "the badlands of the Afghan-Pakistan border".

He said every country and every leader now had to ask themselves whether they were doing the maximum they could on the military and civilian side in Afghanistan.

Mr Miliband had no extra British troops to announce today - Prime Minister Gordon Brown has already declared another 500 will be sent to join the current strength of more than 9,000 from the UK.

Poland is sending 600 more, Italy has announced an extra 1,000 and pledges from countries including Spain, Slovakia and the Czech Republic will bring the increased presence next year to 7,000, according to Nato Secretary-General Mr Rasmussen.

A total of 43 nations have troops in Afghanistan and today's pledges of more come from 25 of Nato's 28 member states, said Mr Rasmussen. He repeated his hope of earlier this week that there would be more "on top of that".

The Nato Secretary-General said the extra deployment would see "a new momentum" in the allies' Afghan mission.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was at the talks, sought to bolster allied resolve to reinforce President Obama's expectations that the European allies would pitch in.

She also took time to have a first face-to-face meeting with Europe's new High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Baroness Cathy Ashton, who started her new job this week.