President Obama’s team has been defending his plan for a rapid deployment of fresh US troops in Afghanistan.
The President announced on Tuesday that he was sending 30,000 more soldiers, the aim being to secure the country ahead of eventual troop withdrawal. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has told Congress the first of them could arrive in two-three weeks. He said it was essential to curb the Taliban and called on other countries to follow America’s example. “We will seek some 5,000-7,000 troops from NATO and expect the allies to share more of the burden in training, equipping and funding the Afghan national army and police.” Nato’s Secretary General has said that 5,000 extra troops would be sent in 2010. Britain has pledged another 500. Some nations say there will be no immediate decision. Maxime Verhagen, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, said: “We shall make our decision in the cabinet. As soon as we make that decision, the parliament will hear that and we will inform our allies.” Germany has also rejected making an immediate move. It is to wait until after an international conference on Afghanistan at the end of January, arguing that there is more to the matter than troop numbers. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said: “A debate in our country that is only about how many troops will be deployed or should be deployed… we are dismissing a debate like this, it is not really leading anywhere.” Poland has said it is ready to send an extra 600 troops, while France has emphasised helping with training and policing. The UN’s envoy has said the commitments should encourage the Afghan government to improve its own performance.