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US Allies Pledge More Troops for Afghanistan

25 NATO countries and other contributors to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan have pledged about 7,000 additional troops to supplement new U.S. force commitment to Afghanistan.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen gives a press conference at the end of NATO foreign ministers meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, 04 Dec 2009
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen gives a press conference at the end of NATO foreign ministers meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, 04 Dec 2009

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Twenty-five NATO countries and other contributors to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan have pledged about 7,000 additional troops to supplement the new U.S. force commitment to Afghanistan. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed the new commitment to the Afghan conflict, which she termed a "critical test for NATO."

The pledges announced by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rassmussen fall short of the 10,000 additional troops that Pentagon officials hoped for.

But the NATO chief said it underlines the solidarity of the 44 ISAF countries and will have a "powerful effect on the ground."

The announcement followed a closed-door briefing for NATO foreign ministers by Secretary Clinton on the new Afghan strategy announced by President Barack Obama earlier this week.

Clinton, according to a text of her remarks released by U.S. officials, said the need for additional forces - to supplement the 30,000 troops being added by the United States is urgent - but that the presence will not be indefinite.

She reaffirmed Mr. Obama's intention to begin withdrawing U.S. forces in July 2011 but said the pace, size and scope of the drawdown will be based on conditions on the ground.

At a closing press event Clinton said 2011 will by no means end the U.S. commitment to the region.

"Speaking for the United States, our civilian commitment will continue long after our combat forces leave. It should be clear to everyone that we will not repeat the mistakes of the past. The United States and our allies and partners have an enduring commitment to Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region," she said.

NATO chief Rasmussen also said the start of any withdrawal should not be been seen as the international coalition abandoning the country.

"Transition doesn't mean exit. There should be no misunderstanding. We are not going to leave Afghanistan to fall back into the hands of terrorists and the extremists who host them. It will not happen," he said.

Among countries confirming new pledges were Britain with 1,200, and Italy with one thousand.

Clinton paid special tribute to Georgia, whose added contribution of just under one thousand troops  probably makes the small Caucasus state what she termed "the largest per-capita contributor" to the NATO-ISAF mission.

But Germany and France, among the largest current  contributors, said they would make no immediate increase.

Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said France unilaterally increased its troop presence last September to some 3,800, and will not even consider another change until a conference on Afghan aid being convened by Britain in late January.

"If there is some place where, to get security for our people for the Afghans [and] we have to adjust, yes we'll do it again. But for the time being, nothing in terms of improving the number of soldiers before the London conference, where we are supposed to talk about strategy," he said.

U.S. officials said they were hopeful the 7,000 figure for new allied forces would be just a starting point, and that additional commitments could come as soon as a NATO force-generating meeting set for next week in the Belgian city of Mons.

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