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NATO Reps Meet in Scotland to Discuss Afghanistan


NATO defense ministers and diplomats have met in Edinburgh, Scotland to discuss the future of the alliance's mission in Afghanistan. Hosted by Britain, the now familiar call for greater participation from some European states was one of the main themes. For VOA, Tom Rivers reports from London.

The Edinburgh meeting allowed the participants to take stock of the still tough and what will likely be a lengthy stay in Afghanistan.

On hand for the discussions were the defense and foreign ministers from countries with deployments in the troubled southern part of Afghanistan.

Hosting the conference was British Defense Minister Des Browne who once again said greater burden sharing would certainly be welcomed.

"Could other countries do more? Could we do with more? Yes, of course we could but the other side of the coin, of course, is that I am a politician and I am a realist and I understand you, known, the dynamics of alliances that are made up of countries of different political make-ups and governments of different types," he said. "I mean some of the governments are not there because of minority governments. They have a political will, but they do not have political process to deliver."

Britain is the largest contributor of after the United States with 7,800 troops deployed.

Among those attending the Scottish meeting, was U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates who believes that some in Europe have lost sight of why allied troops are there.

He wants NATO to adopt and publish a short statement spelling out clearly why forces are still there six years after the Taliban was ousted from power.

A NATO heads of government meeting will take place in April and leaders there are expected to firm up the alliance's strategy for Afghanistan.

Gates warns that gains made over the years can be lost unless a comprehensive military, economic and diplomatic package is set in motion.

Specifically, he says 3,500 trainers are needed for the Afghan police and the army needs 16 helicopters.

Over the past 18 months, Taliban insurgents have increased their attacks in the south, employing a variety of tactics including roadside and suicide bombings and kidnappings.