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Nato allies 'determined' to secure Afghan mission; More troops promised after re-run election brings 'legitimate' result.

Byline: Andrew Woodcock

NATO countries are showing "new determination to see the mission through" in Afghanistan, Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said last night after the allies met for a summit in Bratislava.

Despite clear indications from two key members of the coalition that reinforcements to the international force in Afghanistan will await a successful conclusion of the country's disputed presidential election, Mr Ainsworth said the summit had reassured him that Nato was working "in the right direction" on shared aims.

He said Britain would continue to work with its partners to ensure that sufficient military and civilian resources are provided to the Nato-led International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF).

Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, said some allies had indicated to him that they are thinking about increasing either their military or civilian contributions to the force.

He stressed that he did not seek specific promises of military assistance at the summit in the Slovakian city, where Nato defence ministers were briefed by the top US military commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley Mc-Chrystal.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown last week said the UK had agreed "in principle" to boost its deployment in Afghanistan by 500 troops to 9,500 as part of a coalition-wide deployment with each ally bearing its "fair share".

The Netherlands and Denmark yesterday each indicated they will be willing to send more troops only after the creation of a legitimate government in Kabul and the announcement by US President Barack Obama of a new American strategy.

Dutch Defence Minister, Eimert van Middelkoop, said his country, which has 2,160 troops in Afghanistan, is awaiting the final election results "because the legitimacy of the Afghan government is key".

Danish Defence Minister, Soeren Gade, said allies will not increase troop levels until they are assured the new government in Kabul is committed to the international effort.

"I think whoever is going to send more troops to Afghanistan will put up some conditions," said Mr Gade, whose country has 690 soldiers in Afghanistan.

"We have to make sure the new government in Afghanistan is committed to its job before we send any more troops."

A second round of voting on November 7 will pitch sitting President Hamid Karzai against main rival Abdullah Abdullah, after Karzai accepted earlier this week that he had secured less than the required 50% in a first round of voting which was marred by widespread fraud.

Speaking after yesterday's talks, Mr Ainsworth said: "Nato's enduring mission in Afghanistan is to build a stable democracy with improved governance, to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists - this is vital for Afghanistan's security and for that of our own country.

"I have a real sense that Nato members have new determination to see this mission through. We will continue to work with our partners to ensure the necessary resources are available to ISAF so that we can continue progress."


COALITION: Britain has promised more troops for Afghanistan as long as Nato allies also contribute
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 24, 2009
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