European allies fail to meet Obama's demands

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Indy Politics

America's European allies have signalled their ambivalence over President Barack Obama's Afghanistan strategy with troop commitments that fall well short of the 10,000 new soldiers sought by Washington.

Several Nato and non-Nato countries are ready to send new troops or army trainers to Afghanistan. However, even as Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen predicted yesterday that "non-US members" of the international force in Afghanistan would increase by 5,000 next year and "probably a few thousand more", key allies including France and Germany were deferring their contributions until January at the earliest. Other countries offered small additional contingents.

Meanwhile, as Nato foreign ministers prepare to discuss new troop deployments today and tomorrow, Gordon Brown has been forced to play down suggestions British troops could start pulling out of Afghanistan next year.

Earlier comments by the Prime Minister have been interpreted as signalling the beginning of a UK withdrawal by late 2010. Senior Tories suspect Mr Brown is deliberately raising hopes before the general election that British forces could be on their way home.

In the Commons, David Cameron highlighted the apparent disparity between the leaders, warning Mr Brown against giving "false expectations" or "mixed messages" over the date for the withdrawal of British troops.

The Prime Minister said he had made it absolutely clear "there was no question of us withdrawing our troops until the point that we were sure that the Afghans could take over security control themselves".