NATO:Afghan Transition in 2008?

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Formerly Known as Freefalling
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Germany telling NATO to bugger off, France saying it needs a more active role and Canada complaining of casualties?

Can NATO even fight a war?

And calling for a handover in 2008 seems absurd to me. The best quote was that they have been there for 3 years, they should know how to fight the war by now.

NATO eyes Afghan handover in 2008

RIGA, Latvia (AP) -- NATO pressed its allies at a summit Tuesday to deploy more troops to Afghanistan's volatile south, but Germany resisted any permanently expanded presence and Canada complained of bearing the brunt of an increasingly bloody mission.

Despite the strengthening Taliban insurgency and unexpectedly high casualties, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said that by 2008, he hopes Afghan forces can begin taking over security tasks.

President Bush called the Afghanistan mission -- which has mobilized 32,800 troops-- NATO's No. 1 operation. Defeating Taliban forces, he said, "will require the full commitment of our alliance."

"The commanders on the ground must have the resources and flexibility they need to do their jobs," Bush said, crediting the alliance for helping Afghanistan go from "a totalitarian nightmare" to stability and steadily growing prosperity.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel made clear that her country would not permanently expand its 2,900-strong force, though she said German forces could be deployed in the south in an emergency. Canada's foreign minister warned that public support will fade if other countries don't relax restrictions on use of their troops and help Canadian forces in the south.

Canada has suffered 44 deaths in Afghanistan -- 36 this year alone. Most occurred after NATO forces moved into the south this summer.

Poland's Defense Ministry, meanwhile, said the full deployment of hundreds of new Polish troops to Afghanistan will be delayed by about three weeks because barracks for them will not be ready as scheduled.

De Hoop Scheffer urged NATO allies not to lose heart, insisting the operation was a "mission possible."

"We need to be frank about the risks, but we also need to avoid overdramatizing," he said. "NATO has been in Afghanistan for three years -- time enough to know what it takes to succeed."

Recent attacks
The dangers to the NATO force were underscored by recent attacks that have shattered a period of relative calm.

On Tuesday, a suicide car bomber exploded his vehicle next to a counterterrorism police truck that had been chasing him in western Afghanistan, killing a police officer and wounding another. Two Canadian soldiers were reported slain by a suicide car bomber Monday, and on Sunday a suicide bomber killed 15 Afghans in a restaurant.

During a stop in Denmark en route to the summit, British Prime Minister Tony Blair stressed that NATO forces must have the flexibility and the troops to go where the need is greatest.

"We have got to send a clear message that NATO is prepared to make the military commitment necessary to sustain its mission in Afghanistan," he said. "It's important that we have the force generation and flexibility we need to make our mission successful."

"The important thing is that we recognize the operation in Afghanistan is of crucial importance to our own security," he added. "NATO's credibility is at stake here, and if we don't succeed in Afghanistan, the whole of our world will be less secure."

U.S. Gen. James L. Jones, NATO's supreme allied commander, said he had commitments from some of the nations that have imposed restrictions on the use of their troops that could free up about 2,000 additional soldiers for possible duty in the south.

Italy was expected to lift restrictions in extreme circumstances.

Guarantor of peace
In addition to Afghanistan, NATO leaders plan to discuss the organization's emerging role as a guarantor of peace in global hotspots at the summit, which runs through Wednesday. They also planned to explore the possibility of forging closer ties with their Pacific allies.

Twenty-six presidents and prime ministers have gathered in Riga, the first to be held on the territory of the former Soviet Union.

Latvia, which shares a border with Russia, broke away from the Soviet sphere in 1991 and joined NATO in 2004.

De Hoop Scheffer called Russia, which long opposed NATO's expansion to its borders, an "important and privileged partner." He added that NATO's relations with Moscow must be "rejuvenated."

All 26 NATO allies have troops in the Afghanistan force, but military forces from Britain, Canada, the United States and others are fighting in the front line in the Taliban's southern heartland. These nations have complained that Germany, Italy, Spain and France are keeping their troops in the more peaceful north and west.

"Other NATO nations have troops there, but have imposed caveats on the use of them and on the use of their equipment -- this at a time when NATO's commanders on the ground urgently require additional manpower," said Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga.

"NATO cannot afford to lose this crucial struggle against the regressive forces of a resurgent insurgency by being indecisive or lacking commitment," she said.

France is preparing to assume an expanded role in the Afghan mission. Officials said President Jacques Chirac would propose forming a contact group on Afghanistan to ensure that a global strategy guides NATO action in the country.

"The Europeans have relied on their American allies for too long," Chirac said in a statement. "They have to shoulder their share of the burden."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Find this article at:
http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/11/28/nato.afghan.ap/index.html
 
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