Source Aftenposten English Web Desk
NATO meeting to put more pressure on Norway
As leaders of NATO nations gathered in the Baltic on Tuesday, pressure was expected to grow on Norway to send more troops to Afghanistan.
US President George W Bush got the ball rolling when he landed Tuesday in the capital of Estonia, on his way to the NATO summit in Latvia. He urged all 26 NATO countries to accept more difficult assignments in Afghanistan, and contribute the number of troops that NATO leaders request.
Norway refused a request to send more special troops to southern Afghanistan earlier this autumn. The refusal since has sparked debate within Norway, with several top political leaders calling on the left-centre government to heed any future calls.
NATO secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said it was "unacceptable" that NATO's operation in southern Afghanistan still lacks 20 percent of the troops needed.
Scheffer also criticized NATO countries that put limits on how their soldiers can be used by NATO's force in Afghanistan. "Such limits undermine our operational efficiency," he said.
He stressed that NATO especially needs special forces that not only can help rebuild Afghanistan but fight against the Taliban and insurgents.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and Defense Minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen, all from the Labour Party, are attending the NATO summit in Latvia's capital Riga.
Strøm-Erichsen has defended Norway's decision against sending more troops by saying that Norway already contributes more to the NATO operation than most other countries on a per capita basis.
Former Labour Party boss Thorbjørn Jagland, however, recently called for Norway to do more to help fight back the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. Jagland, a former prime and foreign minister, is currently the president of Norway's parliament and active in foreign affairs.
NATO's operation in Afghanistan is one of the most important items on the agenda, along with its future role in Kosovo, other operations and an upgrade of NATO's military capacity.