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NATO Commander Says More Troops Needed in Afghanistan

The commander of NATO's military forces is disputing critics who say the alliance is losing in Afghanistan, but he said it is not winning fast enough, and he called for member nations to provide more troops. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Munich, where General John Craddock spoke to reporters attending the annual European Security Conference.

General Craddock added his weight to repeated calls by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates for European nations to send more troops to participate in the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

"We are not losing, we are just not winning fast enough," said General Craddock. "I am convinced that if we had what we need that we would see more progress. Look, the fact of the matter is the opposing militant forces operate in the space between what we have and what we need. Fill the space up and you take away their operating space. Advantage, NATO."

General Craddock noted that when NATO took on the Afghanistan security mission, starting in 2005, its military branch determined how many forces and what types of military capabilities would be needed. All 26 member nations have sent contingents, but the total force remains short of aircraft, intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities and about 7,000 troops.

"Had we the forces that we asked for and we have been told approved, and they came with no restrictions, caveats, we would see significant difference in progress," he said. "It would be much faster and better in the security-stability arena."

General Craddock indicated he is frustrated at the criticism of NATO's performance in Afghanistan, considering the ongoing shortages.

"How can we be graded on how well we are doing when we do not even have what we need to do what we were told to do? Give us the resources," said Craddock. "Give us what we were told. We said, 'Here is the mission that you told us, here is what we need.' They said, 'Go ahead and do it,' the nations of the alliance. Now we need those resources. And I think, [if] we get them, you will see some more progress."

General Craddock recently launched a new system for measuring progress in Afghanistan. The general says the first review, conducted last month, covers security, governance and economic development.

"We see very minor small progress on the first two," he said. "It is inching forward. It is progress. It is a little better in some areas. In some areas it is not. And on the third one, the development, based on what we have, it appears to be stuck top dead center right now."

General Craddock says that could be because all the NATO governments and private groups working in Afghanistan do not have a coordinated reporting system, something the alliance hopes to change by appointing a civilian coordinator for its Afghan mission. That, the troop shortage, and other aspects of the troubled effort will be high on the agenda when NATO's top leaders meet at a summit in Romania in April.