When it came the call was loud and clear. US General Stanley McChrystal, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, wants a major shift in strategy to battle the Taliban and he needs 40,000 more troops and equipment to do it.But where are they coming from? Its a dilemma for the Obama administration as the Europeans look to be stepping back from the fray as casualties mount, costs soar and public opinion begins to dip. The US president held talks with NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen and made a clear point. “This is not an American battle. This is a NATO mission as well. And we are working actively and diligently to consult with NATO every step of the way.” Europe’s defence ministers are meeting in Gothenburg and what to do in Afghanistan is high on the agenda. The blocs foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, indicated that the EU would wait for the results of the Afghan election before committing to any new Afghan plan. As it stands 68,000 US soldiers are in Afghanistan backed by 35,000 from other countries, mostly Europe. 40 percent of US generals back the call for a 40,000 troop surge. Europe wants 17,000 instructors to train 13,000 Afghan soldiers and 80,000 police. Caught in the middle is President Obama while his top brass want extra firepower his main allies lean toward a training strategy. General McChrystal gave his reasons for wanting a speedier end to a difficult conundrum. “We need to reverse the current trend and time does matter. Waiting does not prolong a favourable outcome. This effort will not remain winnable indefinitely, public support will not last indefinitely.” He is not alone in his thinking, General Henri Bentegeat, who heads the EU’s Military Committee, says its not a problem of troop shortages but a lack of political will that is keeping Europe from deploying more military in the country. EU Ministers are set to grasp this nettle again at a formal meeting in Brussels in November.
EU and US at odds over Afghanistan