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Bush Calls for More NATO Troops in Afghanistan


President Bush says the United States and NATO will stage a spring offensive in Afghanistan against terrorists and Taleban fighters. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from the White House.

President Bush says, in coming months, as a spring thaw melts the snow and ice in Afghanistan, NATO will go on the offensive.

"The Taleban and al-Qaida are preparing to launch new attacks," he said. "Our strategy is not to go on the defense, but to go on the offense. This spring, there is going to be a new offensive in Afghanistan, and it is going to be a NATO offensive."

He says the effort will take extra troops and resources, and he urges all NATO allies to help. He also calls on some members of the alliance to lift conditions restricting their forces to relatively safe areas.

"Allies must lift restrictions on the forces they do provide, so NATO commanders have the flexibility they need to defeat the enemy, wherever the enemy may make a stand," he said.

The United States pressured NATO allies during a defense ministers meeting in Spain earlier this month to provide more troops for Afghanistan. But several European allies say there is too much emphasis on a military solution.

Mr. Bush says the United States is doing its part.

"I have ordered an increase of U.S. forces in Afghanistan," said President Bush. "We have extended the stay of 3,200 now in the country for four months, and will deploy a replacement force that will sustain this increase for the foreseeable future."

In a speech to the American Enterprise Institute, a private policy research group, the president said the war in Afghanistan does not get as much attention in the United States as the conflict in Iraq. But he said it is important to remember that just five years ago, the Afghan people were living in, what he called, a totalitarian nightmare.

He said progress is being made, citing the election of a democratic government, the creation of new opportunities for the Afghan people, and the construction of roads and other infrastructure in a country bearing heavy scars of war.

Mr. Bush said attacks escalated in 2006, making it the toughest year since the Taleban were driven from power by U.S.-led forces. But, he said, NATO is helping the Afghan people, by training Afghan security forces, improving its intelligence capability, and bringing much needed services to the provinces.

"Our commitment is strong," he said. "We will train you, we will help you and we will stand with you as you defend your new democracy."

The president also brought up relations between Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, and stressed they must work together to halt the violence and stop extremists from launching attacks from their common border. He said he will stay in constant contact with Afghan and Pakistani leaders to remind them of their obligations.

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