NATO forces could start withdrawing from Aghanistan in two years time but more reinforcements are needed now – that was the message from Alliance Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at a summit meeting in Latvia. De Hoop Scheffer said a gradual transfer of power to local forces was possible, but first the country needed to be stabilised.
At 32 000 strong, commanders estimate the NATO operation in Afghanistan is 20 per cent under strength – but with 150 casualties this year already, Alliance members are proving reluctant to commit further troops. US President George Bush stopped off for a meeting with Estonian President Toomas Ilves on his way to the summit in Riga.
It is the first time that NATO has held a summit in the former Soviet Union and it’s an occasion for the Baltic states to assert their independence from Russia. In the post cold war era, the US has expressed a desire to expand NATO to become a defence organisation for democracies throughout the world, but the idea has met with resistance, notably in Europe.