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    Afghanistan Tops NATO Agenda

    Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a build up of U.S. forces there, but some NATO members are reluctant to boost their own troop levels in Afghanistan.

    NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen gives a joint press on the eve of the meeting Foreign Affairs NATO Council, 2 Dec 2009
    NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen gives a joint press on the eve of the meeting Foreign Affairs NATO Council, 2 Dec 2009
    Lisa Bryant

    NATO foreign ministers are meeting Thursday and Friday in Brussels for talks that are expected to be dominated by Afghanistan.  Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a build up of U.S. forces there, but some NATO members are reluctant to boost their own troop levels in Afghanistan.

    The United States is reportedly hoping NATO members will commit up to 10,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan - compared to the 30,000 U.S. troop buildup President Barack Obama announced Tuesday. 

    NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has predicted other alliance partners will pledge 5,000 or more soldiers, about half of Washington's expectations.

    International affairs director Robin Shepherd, of the British research group The Henry Jackson Society, says he doubts the two-day Brussels meeting will lead to a breakthrough.

    "I suspect you are going to get a certain amount of fudging, you are going to get the Europeans committing to a relatively small number of extra troops, but committing instead equipment, training - the sort of 'back office' parts of the whole operation.  I think they will be more forthcoming on that.  Because politically across Europe, Afghanistan is an increasingly unpopular war and therefore they do not want ot turn down requests from the U.S. administration, but they face domestic pressures, which will limit their ability to be sufficiently forthcoming," said Shepherd.

    In France, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was non-committal about prospects of increasing the 3,400 French troops currently serving in Afghanistan.

    At the moment, Kouchner told French radio, France does not need any more troops in the Afghan zone where it operates.  But he did not rule out what he described as "adjustments" in the future.

    Britain has already offered to send 500 additional troops to Afghanistan, and Poland is considering deploying several hundred more.  Italy said it could also send more men, but it has not yet said how many.

    NATO foreign ministers will also hold talks with Russia during the Brussels meeting.  Moscow has expressed frustration at skepticism on the part of some alliance members about a Russian security proposal for Europe.  Experts also doubt the ministers will make much headway on another controversial item on the agenda, future membership prospects for Ukraine and Georgia.  
     

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