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US Wants More NATO Troops in Afghanistan, If Obama Sends More US Forces

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell (undated photo)
Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell (undated photo)
Al Pessin

The U.S. Defense Department spokesman says the United States expects its allies to send more troops to Afghanistan, if President Barack Obama decides to send more U.S. troops. 
 
Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell declined to speculate about what, if any, troop increase President Obama will order when he announces his revised strategy for Afghanistan, which is expected next week.  But Morrell told reporters Tuesday if there is a need to increase the number of foreign troops, they should not all be American.

"If, indeed, we add more forces it is expected that our allies would find a way to do the same," said Geoff Morrell. "And I'm sure appropriate conversations would be had with them about what they can do and when they can do it."

The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has said he needs more troops or the allied effort could face failure because of the Taliban's resurgence.  That assessment, and a secret troop request, prompted the strategy review President Obama has led in recent months, which he says will result in a decision soon.

NATO foreign ministers will meet in Brussels next Thursday and Friday, and Afghanistan will be a key topic.  But Geoff Morrell says even if the president's decision is known by then, he does not expect the NATO allies to announce their troop plans immediately.

"I don't think there's an expectation that you're going to see a bunch of nations standing up in rapid succession and declaring their intention to add large numbers of forces right away," he said. "I think this is something that will likely take several weeks, probably, to come to fruition."

Morrell says although the allies have been consulted during the policy review, they will not learn the president's decision until it is announced, and will need time to analyze its implications.  He also notes that some European nations want to have a conference on the way ahead in Afghanistan, perhaps in January, and he says many countries may wait until then to announce any troop deployment decisions.  Morrell also notes that NATO countries have already increased their troop levels in Afghanistan in recent years, and senior U.S. officials say they recognize the political constraints that would make further deployments difficult for some European governments.
 

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