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    Clinton Expects Significant Afghan Troop Pledges from NATO

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Congress Wednesday the Obama administration expects significant commitments of additional troops for Afghanistan from NATO allies to supplement the surge of U.S. forces. Clinton flies to Brussels Thursday for key meetings on Afghanistan at NATO headquarters.

    Clinton is making no specific prediction but she does say she expects U.S. allies to be announcing significant commitments of additional troops and funding in the coming days to underscore their shared stake in the Afghan conflict.

    The Secretary of State spend a full day in Congress Wednesday with other senior administration officials defending President Obama's decision to send 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

    After another hearing Thursday, she leaves for Brussels for talks on Afghanistan Friday with fellow NATO foreign ministers, and those of other participants in the 43-nation International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, ISAF.

    Clinton said she spoke with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen between Congressional hearings and said he gave an encouraging report on his efforts to generate new troop pledges among the allies.

    "We anticipate a significant commitment of additional forces by our NATO-ISAF partners, as well as additional money because of course we want to establish a robust trust fund for both the Afghan national army and the police so that the funding needs can be not only be carried out in the next couple of years, but be maintained after that," said Hillary Clinton.

    NATO chief Rasmussen, the former Danish Prime Minister, said in Brussels he expected U.S. allies to send at least five thousand more soldiers to Afghanistan - and probably a few thousand more than that - to show, in his words, that this is not just America's war.

    Appearing with Clinton at a House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing, military Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen made a similar forecast, saying he is confident of at least another five thousand allied troops.

    The United States now has about 70,000 troops in Afghanistan while NATO members and other allies collectively provide nearly 40,000 more. Clinton said the ratio is in line with the size of the military establishments of the United States and its allies, and shows the shared nature of the fight.

    "We will have additional support from our NATO-ISAF allies," she said. "We will still be, at the end of our troop commitments, about two-to-one. But there will also be a collective presence that is very significant since it was the United States that was attacked and all these other countries under Article Five of NATO [NATO Charter], others like Australia coming in, have really seen this fight - which was picked with us - as their fight as well."

    Some of the anticipated increase will include allied troops sent in to provide security for Afghanistan's August elections who will be held over indefinitely.

    Official announcements are not expected until after a NATO force-generation meeting in Mons, Belgium next week though Poland has indicated it is prepared to send 600 new troops and Britain said last week it will contribute another 500.

    Among other countries signaling increased commitments are Spain, Italy and Finland. Large current contributors France and Germany have held off on new pledges pending an Afghanistan conference planned for London in late January.
     

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