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NATO General Secretary Wants More Troops For Afghanistan


The Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, has criticized allies for not doing enough to support the war against Taliban militants in Afghanistan, saying injured soldiers have to wait too long before they are evacuated from the battlefield. Stefan Bos reports that Scheffer made the comments at a NATO summit in Budapest.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer attended a ceremony in front of Hungary's historic parliament building in Budapest on Thursday, honoring Hungarian soldiers who served in Afghanistan.

The ceremony was held on the sidelines of a two day NATO summit that has been overshadowed by concerns over increased attacks by Taliban militants against NATO forces in Afghanistan and across the border from Pakistan.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force has about 51,000 troops in Afghanistan, helping the government stabilize the country. But it is a difficult task.

Speaking after meeting with NATO defense ministers, De Hoop Scheffer unveiled his military wish list for Afghanistan. "Which means not only as I mentioned, trainers but also helicopters and ground forces. I'll be frank. I am not satisfied and I am not happy about the way the allies are performing in this regard," he said.

De Hoop Scheffer added that the situation on the battlefield, where injured soldiers have had to wait for medical assistance, requires more NATO troops in the country. "We owe it to our soldiers, who are wounded on the battlefield that they can be medically evacuated at the minimum time. That underlines my plea I think for the need to have forces nations promised," he said.

Ahead of the NATO meeting, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked his counterparts, particularly from southeastern Europe, to send more troops to Afghanistan.

De Hoop Scheffer urged NATO defense ministers to take new steps to crack down on the opium trade in Afghanistan, which helps fund the Taliban-led insurgency.

In addition, the NATO alliance needs trainers and funding to develop the Afghan army, which Kabul wants to increase from about 80,000 to more than 130,000 troops.

Despite these difficulties, De Hoop Scheffer says he is optimistic that delegates will reach consensus Friday on their countries' involvement in Afghanistan, and on a plan to make NATO a more flexible force.

On Friday, NATO defense ministers are also expected to discuss Georgia and assess the former Soviet republic's efforts to reform its military to meet NATO membership requirements.

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