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Gates Says Iraq Proves More Troops Needed in Afghanistan


U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says progress in Iraq after the surge of U.S. forces last year proves that more NATO troops in Afghanistan would help bring stability to that country. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Munich, where the secretary is attending a European security conference.

After a day of conference sessions and private meetings, Secretary Gates told reporters he is continuing to try to convince European allies to make up the shortfall of about 7,000 troops for the NATO mission in Afghanistan. "I would just characterize our view this way: anything anybody can do in Afghanistan. What we have seen in Iraq is that numbers do matter so we need to have enough troops there so that once these areas are clear we can hold them so economic development and civil development can proceed," he said.

Secretary Gates says his speech to the annual European Security Conference on Sunday will try to convince ordinary Europeans to allow their governments to deploy more troops to Afghanistan, and to put them in troubled areas where they are particularly needed. He also wants NATO countries to remove the restrictions many place on the troops they send. He repeated his concern that if the alliance does not respond, it could become what he has called a "two tier" organization.

"NATO is a collective security agreement," he said, adding "It's a military alliance. The members have signed up with certain obligations in this regard. But if it were to become the case that some allies are not prepared to fulfill their military obligations, while others continue to do so, I think that that is a very dangerous situation for the future of the alliance."

But Secretary Gates has also been working to ease tensions with some allies caused by critical comments he made in a newspaper interview last month, and because of letters he sent his NATO counterparts, personally urging them to provide more troops for Afghanistan. "Maybe some will be able to help. It certainly will not be seen as a negative in our bilateral relations if some people are unable to do more," he said.

Secretary Gates says the United States "dug deep" to find 3,200 more troops to send to Afghanistan next month, and he hopes some NATO allies will dig deep and come up with more troops, too.

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