Obama's Nato allies to send 7,000 troops

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The Independent Online

Barack Obama's Nato allies yesterday pledged about 7,000 additional troops as part of a fresh military surge in Afghanistan. The offers of additional troops were made at Nato headquarters amid strong pressure from Washington on the Alliance to help "turn the tide" against the Taliban.

But as Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, acknowledged at the Brussels summit of Nato foreign ministers, that America was "weary of war", international doubts remained over the strategy. Even though the latest contributions will raise the total number of foreign forces in Afghanistan to about 140,000, the numbers are still short of earlier forecasts. They are also no guarantee of success, Nato's Secretary General admitted. "There are no silver bullets, no magic solutions," Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters. "No one should expect instant results."

In urging continued resolve from allies in the aftermath of President Obama's announcement of 30,000 extra US troops, Mrs Clinton acknowledged the global scepticism over the continued viability of the mission. "Today, our people are weary of war," she said. "But we cannot ignore reality." And, she went on: "This is our fight, together. And we must finish it together."

But key troop contributors Canada and the Netherlands, which have a total of 4,900 combat troops deployed along the frontlines in southern provinces, plan to withdraw in 2011 and 2010 respectively. The Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen signalled his country would "stay on in some capacity" but ruled out military activities; Canada, which has suffered proportionately heavy casualties, has so far been impervious to calls to remain.

"It's impressive they got even these numbers together given everyone is growing so weary," says Daniel Korski, a senior analyst with the European Council on Foreign Relations.

It is still not clear how the US and Nato plan to manage the transition. Nato still needs several more years and much more than 200 extra police and military training teams to boost Afghan forces so they can eventually take over security. Italy had announced on Thursday that it would sent about 1,000 reinforcements, but commitments by France and Germany to send some of their trainers have also been put on the back-burner until at least the end of January.