Rice Presses NATO Allies To Expand Afghan Force




 
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Boots
 
March 7th, 2008  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Rice Presses NATO Allies To Expand Afghan Force


New York Times
March 7, 2008
Pg. 11
By Helene Cooper
BRUSSELS — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, tiptoeing through a minefield of European squabbling, on Thursday urged NATO allies to step up troop contributions and other efforts to help defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Ms. Rice spent the day at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers on many issues, including Greece’s refusal to accept full alliance membership for Macedonia, the former Yugoslav republic, unless it changed its name and whether admitting Georgia and Ukraine would anger Russia.
But she also prodded reluctant European allies to bolster the NATO-led international contingent in Afghanistan, which numbers about 40,000. The American force is about 26,000 troops, some of whom serve in the NATO contingent, and the Pentagon will send 3,200 more marines.
“We have been concerned about burden-sharing,” Ms. Rice said. “The Canadians have made clear that they desire a partner in the south, and we have made clear that NATO needs to deliver on that and we have to respond as an alliance.”
Canada’s 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, who serve in the southern area where the Taliban insurgency is strongest, have had heavy casualties, including 78 deaths. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he will withdraw his force on schedule next year unless NATO adds 1,000 troops. He has said that if NATO agreed to do so, the government would introduce a motion in Parliament to prolong the Canadian mission for a year beyond February 2009.
French officials say that they will probably contribute a substantial number but do not plan a formal announcement until the NATO summit meeting next month in Bucharest, Romania.
A senior Bush administration official said that the Afghanistan mission was a major issue at the NATO meeting. She said the meeting was not as contentious as the debate among Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and his European counterparts about troop contributions. But, she indicated that much conflict continued between countries that had sent troops to the most dangerous zones and those that had not sent troops to the battle zones.
“You can’t have some allies talking about how they’re developers and some talking about how they’re fighters,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity under diplomatic rules. “We all have to be both.”
The ministers are working on a “vision statement” for the Bucharest meeting to lay out, particularly for Europeans and Canadians, why NATO is in Afghanistan.
Ms. Rice also found herself in the midst of the debate about which European countries should be admitted to NATO, and when.
Greece threatened to block NATO membership for Macedonia, saying it would wield its veto next month unless the country changed its name from the Republic of Macedonia, which Greece contends implies a territorial claim on the Greek province of Macedonia. The Greek foreign minister, Dora Bakoyannis, said Macedonia’s claim represented “nationalistic logic.”
Ms. Rice said that all sides were seeking a solution. Other officials said that in a fight between a NATO ally, Greece, and a nation that was not yet a member, Macedonia, the latter would probably lose.
The efforts by Ukraine and Georgia to start the slow process of joining NATO were set back on Thursday by the Bush administration’s squabbles with Russia. While the United States has indicated it would probably favor membership, France and Germany said now was not the time to further alienate Russia, which opposes it, diplomats said.
 


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