Nato allies split over Washington’s call for more troops

The US administration has declared that it expects “significant new commitments” on Afghanistan from its European partners in Nato before the organisation’s April summit. But a meeting of defence ministers in Krakow has underlined serious differences between the allies on a war they are far from winning.

Last week Barack Obama dispatched 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan, a figure that is expected to rise to 30,000 in preparation for a “surge” to tackle what the President described as a “resurgent Taliban … and a deteriorating security situation”. Some Nato allies believe, however, that going for the military option would be ultimately fruitless. “Even 140,000 would not be enough to get victory,” a senior European diplomat said. “What we need is a new strategy, without so much emphasis on war fighting.”

A clear parallel was being drawn – the Soviet Union had around 140,000 troops in Afghanistan at the height of a conflict they lost. Even with the new American reinforcements, the total strength of the Western forces would be 80,000. In addition, many soldiers from European countries cannot take part in combat operations because of caveats imposed on their rules of engagement, a limitation that has attracted bitter criticism from the US and UK. But officials from these European states say that such caveats are necessary to prevent the alienation of the Afghan population.

President Hamid Karzai (pictured) is among those angered by civilian casualties caused during Western military operations. German forces had complained that they could not go to some villages or have access to the people “because the Americans had bombed in the area”.

There are also internal divisions in Nato about new “guidance” from General John Craddock, the American commander of Nato, who says Isaf (Nato’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan) can open fire on drug traffickers, even without direct evidence linking them to the insurgents or to criminal activities. Egon Ramms, the head of the German command at Nato, and politicians in Berlin denounced the directive as illegal.

There was also opposition within Isaf. A classified document leaked from the office of General David McKiernan, the force’s US commander, said such action would “seriously undermine the commitment Isaf has made to the Afghan people and the international community … to restrain our use of force and avoid civilian casualties to the greatest degree predictable”.

The US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, said Washington would make a formal request for reinforcements at Nato’s April summit, but so far the indications are that these will come not in thousands but in hundreds. Italy has said it will send 500 more and Germany 600, although Berlin’s commitment would be to training rather than combat duties. Britain is sending 300 specialist troops to deal with roadside bombs and mines, which are claiming a steady toll of lives, but another 2,500 are expected to be deployed in time for the Afghan elections in August.

Mr Gates had asked that Nato’s rapid reaction force, which has never been deployed, should be sent to Afghanistan as a stopgap. This, however, was blocked by German objections. The prospect of sizeable European reinforcements appeared to diminish further with the Secretary-General of Nato, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, saying the international economic meltdown may force some countries to reduce their global commitments.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape