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US Officials Want More NATO Help In Afghanistan


Several U.S. Senators and a high-ranking U.S. military official say America's allies in NATO should send more troops to fight the war in Afghanistan. VOA's Kent Klein reports from Washington.

With the NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania less than a month away, U.S. officials speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee assessed the alliance's performance in fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Most of them agreed that the European NATO members' participation in the mission has been vital to the progress that has been made in Afghanistan. But many of the speakers were critical of some NATO countries' restrictions that keep their troops off the front lines. Democratic Senator Joseph Biden is the committee chairman.

"But the so-called national caveats are making a mockery, in my view, of NATO and the notion of a unified mission," said Senator Biden. "One ally can fight here but not another place. Another ally can do this but not that. In my view, you're either in this fight or you're not."

U.S. Army General John Craddock is the supreme allied commander for Europe at NATO Headquarters in Belgium. He told the committee that the restrictions need to be eased.

"These caveats, like shortfalls, increase the risk to every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine employed in theater," said General Craddock.

At the NATO summit, President Bush plans to thank the other alliance members for their commitments in Afghanistan. But he is expected to ask the allies to do even more.

The overall situation in Afghanistan is still a reason for concern, according to Daniel Fried, the Acting Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs.

"Levels of violence are up, particularly in the south," said Daniel Fried. "The border areas with Pakistan provide a haven for terrorists. Civil-military cooperation does not work as well as it should."

But Fried does see some reasons for hope.

"It's worth recalling that six million Afghan children now go to school, one-third of them girls," he said. "That's two million girls in school, when under the Taleban there were none. Zero."

All 26 NATO member nations are taking part in the mission in Afghanistan, but some of them are not willing to send more troops into the country.

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