US seeks troops for Afghanistan
US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates has urged Germany to send more troops to Afghanistan. He warned that without reinforcements the Nato-led force could lose credibility in the country. A German newspaper described Mr Gates' letter to German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung as "unusually stern", and its response equally blunt. Correspondents say the exchange comes amid growing signs of strain in the mission and in Nato as a whole. Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper has issued both US President George W Bush and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown with an ultimatum - that Canada will end its military mission in Afghanistan if Nato does not put more soldiers in the dangerous south of the country.
The newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung said it was sent about 10 days ago. It asks for Germany to consider a new mandate which could allow thousands more troops to be sent to Aghanistan with some deployed to the more dangerous south. The Nato-led force has almost 37,000 troops in Afghanistan. Germany currently has 3,200 troops stationed in northern Afghanistan and around the capital, Kabul. According to the current parliamentary mandate, the troops can only be sent elsewhere under exceptional circumstances. The letter complains of a heavy burden on US troops and of a possible split in the Nato alliance.
The US has already promised to send an extra 3,000 US marines - but is urging other Nato countries including France and Germany to do more. So far most Nato members have refused to send significant numbers to southern Afghanistan. HAVE YOUR SAY Germany is a part of Nato and is obliged to send in more troops Rob, Wirral, UK In a meeting with Mr Gates in Washington on Thursday, French Defence Minister Herve Morin called for a "comprehensive strategy" in Afghanistan but failed to pledge any more combat troops.
The BBC's Jonathan Beale in Washington says the US has tried to avoid a public row with Nato members. But speaking to a senate committee a senior US diplomat stated that "we expect more from our Nato allies", adding that too few allies had combat troops fighting the insurgents in the south.
Germany rejects troop request for southern Afghanistan
by Deborah Cole
Fri Feb 1, 2008
Germany on Friday rejected an urgent US call for combat troops in battle-ravaged southern Afghanistan, insisting Berlin's focus on reconstruction efforts in the relatively calm north was justified. Amid reports of transatlantic tensions over the NATO mission in Afghanistan, German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung said the mandate in place until October ruled out stationing soldiers in the turbulent south."I think we will continue to do our part as foreseen by the parliamentary mandate," Jung told reporters. "That will have to continue to be our focus."
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates reportedly sent an "unusually stern" letter to Jung last month demanding combat troops, helicopters and paratroopers for Afghanistan and charging that some NATO states were not pulling their weight.Jung responded with a similarly "direct and stern" letter, the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported Friday.The minister confirmed that Germany, as well as several other NATO member states, had received a letter from Gates, but declined to comment further on its content.Government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said Berlin found Gates's letter "surprising"."During all the meetings and talks we have had with the US side in recent months, the engagement of the German military in the framework of the mandate with its focus on northern Afghanistan was expressly praised," he told reporters.
He said Jung would be discussing the issue with his NATO counterparts at a meeting in Vilnius next week.NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer held talks Friday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in Paris. "(I) cannot say that (Sarkozy) gave me assurances, but (...) the indications I have are that it is quite possible France will take on a greater responsibility in Afghanistan, although that is a decision for the French government."France has about 1,600 soldiers engaged in Afghanistan, just over half the German contingent of 3,100 -- nearly all of them deployed in the capital Kabul and the north as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. It is the third biggest troop provider after the United States and Britain.
The NATO chief said earlier that a surge in troops in Afghanistan was "very important". "There's no doubt we must do more, but I don't think that it would be useful to speak about it in public because it would hurt our success in reconstructing and developing Afghanistan," he said.German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said German troops were making headway in stabilising the north of Afghanistan."I think that is also recognised by the United States," he said after talks in Berlin with his Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt. Gates' letter came after NATO formally asked Germany last month to deploy a rapid reaction force of 250 troops in northern Afghanistan to replace a Norwegian contingent.
Berlin is expected to approve the request but public support for the six-year-old mission is slipping with a majority of Germans saying they oppose continued deployment. There are about 40,000 NATO and 20,000 US-led coalition soldiers in Afghanistan. NATO ommanders say they need about 7,500 more troops to carry out their mission. Southern Afghanistan has seen the worst violence since the Taliban was ousted in the US-led invasion in 2001, after the September 11 terror attacks by Al-Qaeda.
The US State Department expressed concern Thursday that the international community could abandon Afghanistan, while Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper again warned, during talks with British counterpart Gordon Brown, that Ottawa would pull its 2,500 soldiers out of Afghanistan if it did not get reinforcements from other countries.Scheffer noted that national commitments to United Nations, NATO and European Union military operations could be streamlined. "It's the same defence budgets, the same soldiers, the same planes," he said, pointing out that 21 countries are now members of both NATO and the EU.
Pentagon brass split on troops
By LOLITA C. BALDOR,
Discussions about a possible pause in troop cuts in Iraq underscore what is shaping up as a sharp debate between the U.S. commanders running the war and those who have to provide the forces for the fight.Military leaders, including Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stressed Friday that it is too soon to tell if troop withdrawals should slow or stop. But they acknowledged that it is becoming more and more difficult to find the Army soldiers and Marines to send to battle in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His comments came as a new burst of violence shook Iraq, highlighting concerns that pulling U.S. troops out quickly to reduce the strain could well hurt the chances for success in Iraq. Mullen said he is not convinced that attacks like Friday's twin suicide bombings in Baghdad require the Pentagon to pause or freeze the reduction in troops after the number of combat brigades shrinks to 15 at the end of July."I don't see that at this particular point," Mullen told a Pentagon news conference hours after the attacks. He stressed that he and the service chiefs are still studying the matter of troop withdrawals beyond July.
Too rapid a withdrawal could lead to an unraveling of the security improvements of recent months — a risk President Bush said this week he would not take. Yet keeping troops there longer than necessary could push the already stressed Army and Marines to the breaking point.The debate in the Pentagon is over what to do when those five brigades are brought home in coming months. It is complicated by the mixed picture in Iraq, where violence levels are far lower than a year ago but have shown signs of worsening in recent days, especially in volatile areas north of Baghdad.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he hopes conditions in Iraq allow a cutback to 10 brigades by year's end. That would make it possible for the Army to reduce combat tours from 15 months to 12 months.But senior commanders in Iraq, led by Gen. David Petraeus, have made it known that they would like to have a pause this summer for a "period of assessment," perhaps into the autumn months, before making a recommendation to Bush on when and at what pace to resume the withdrawal of U.S. forces. Thus, they would keep the force at 15 brigades for some period well beyond July.
At his news conference, Mullen said that in private discussions this week at the Pentagon, the Army chief of staff, Gen. George Casey, and Conway, stressed their concern about the growing — and hard to gauge — strain on troops and their families.They worry that long and repeated combat tours are wearing out the force, creating excessive strain within military families and possibly, at some point, causing many to quit the military. Casey, who preceded Petraeus as the top commander in Iraq, speaks of the danger of crossing a "red line" — a point at which the Army will no longer be able to maintain an all-volunteer force.Conway, meanwhile, told reporters Friday that the Marines "took one for the team" when the Pentagon decided to send 3,200 Marines to Afghanistan for seven months this spring and summer.
There also are about 25,000 Marines in Iraq.The Corps, Conway warned, can't for much longer maintain the current level of combat deployment — with Marine units getting just seven months rest at home between seven-month tours to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mullen said Petraeus has not yet discussed his thinking on this with senior leaders in the Pentagon. The most senior U.S. commander in Iraq below Petraeus, Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, said Friday in an e-mail response to an Associated Press question that he favors a "deliberate, considered" course of action on troop withdrawals that is in line with the results of an assessment after July. "I do agree that we should analyze the situation at the conclusion of our return to 15 brigades," Odierno said.
Bush's top diplomat in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, said in an AP interview Friday at the State Department that he and Petraeus plan to report to the Congress in April on how to proceed with troop levels and strategy. He would not say whether he thinks a redeployment pause will be needed. "It's not simply assessing what conditions are with respect to the status of Iraqi security forces, sectarian tensions, level of violence as they are currently," Crocker said. "You've got to take it one dimension further, and that's to ask yourself: How will any U.S. redeployment change those dynamics?" Stephen Biddle, an analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations who has served as an adviser to Petraeus, said in a telephone interview Thursday that he hopes Bush decides to slow down the withdrawal. "In general, slower is better, subject to the constraint that you not break the military," Biddle said. "The problem here is that a lot of the violence reduction (in 2007) is attributable to voluntary cease-fires, and if they stopped shooting voluntarily they could start shooting again just as voluntarily."
Source : Yahoo