NATO Unlikely To Fill All Afghan Military Requirements: Gates

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
March 31, 2008 By Jim Mannion, Agence France-Presse
COPENHAGEN -- NATO leaders holding a summit in Bucharest this week are unlikely to fully meet the military requirements of a NATO-led force in Afghanistan, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Monday.
Gates said there was a "good possibility" that some allies would step forward to offer more troops for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). But he suggested it would fall short of the three manoeuvre brigades requested by commanders.
Gates said the requirements, which also include 3,500 trainers, helicopters, and unmanned aircraft, were "pretty ambitious."
"So I would be surprised if we saw commitments in Bucharest that would fully meet our requirements of the CJSOR (combined joint statement of requirements), but we'll just keep working at it," he said.
Gates spoke to reporters en route here from Belgium where he received briefings from NATO's top military leaders on Afghanistan and other issues on the agenda of the April 2-4 alliance summit in Bucharest.
His visit to Denmark, the first by a US defence secretary in 10 years, came on the same day that a Danish soldier was killed and two others wounded in fighting in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold.
Gates said he wanted to visit Denmark for "a signals check" before the summit and because it has been one of the most steadfast US allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kosovo.
"This is an ally that, in my opinion, is really punching above its weight. And I wanted to visit and thank them for that," he said.
Denmark has 635 troops in the NATO-led ISAF force, most of them operating in Helmand, which has been a focal point of a Taliban resurgence over the past two years.
Gates said he thought there would be some announcements at the summit of additional troop contributions to ISAF.
"They are still up in the air but there has been enough kind of in the wind that that's a good possibility," he said.
"I think the prospects are good for a good, strong, unanimous statement by the alliance on Afghanistan and why we are there," he said.
Gates has pushed for the vision statement as a way of shoring up eroding European public support for what has turned out to be a more difficult and deadly assignment than many expected when the NATO-led force moved into southern Afghanistan nearly two years ago.
US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters aboard Air Force One he was confident that allies would step forward with offers of help.
"We've been saying for some time that all of us need to do more in Afghanistan, and I think you're going to see countries coming up and doing more," Hadley said.
A senior US defence official earlier told reporters travelling with Gates that he was confident that allies will provide a 1,000-strong battle group that Canada has set as a condition for keeping its forces in Afghanistan.
"I think things are lining up with what the allies are preparing to announce that will meet Canada's requirements. I think we are there," the official said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced last week that France will increase the size of its 1,600-member military force in Afghanistan.
He provided no numbers but sources in Paris said it would be more than 1,000 troops.
But Gates said, "There's still an unmet requirement," including "I think 3.200 trainers approximately."
"Our marines will take on some of that, but even they will represent only about a third of the requirements," he said.