U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates (left) meets with Polish soldiers after signing a memorandum on cooperation between the Polish and U.S. militaries in Krakow.
U.S. President Barack Obama announced earlier this week that he will send an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan — raising the total number of U.S. troops deployed there to more than 50,000.
Analysts say the timing of Obama’s announcement, just ahead of the Krakow talks, could increase pressure on other NATO countries to send more troops.
Speaking on February 18 as he flew to Krakow, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Washington expects its NATO allies to contribute more troops ahead of the election. Gates said the response so far has been “disappointing.”
NATO Secretary-General Jaap Hoop de Scheffer also has been urging alliance members to contribute more — either with troop deployments or fresh aid disbursements.
“2009 will see an infusion of United States forces in this operation,” he said. “And I strongly hope that we will also see the other allies step up with more forces, and where that is not possible, with more civilian aid — development cooperation and reconstruction aid. I think it is fair and I think also politically healthy for the alliance if we have a fair sharing of the burdens in this alliance and in this mission between all of the allies.”
The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, said the 17,000 additional forces that President Barack Obama authorized will likely be needed for at least three years and as many as 10,000 more troops will be required later in 2009.
The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, says extra troops are badly needed. McKiernan told journalists in Washington on February 18 that the coming year will be “tough” for foreign forces in Afghanistan.
“I will use most of those [additional U.S.] forces in the southern part of Afghanistan, an area where we do not have sufficient security presence, an area that has deteriorated somewhat, an area where we need persistent security presence in order to fight a counterinsurgency and to shape, clear, hold, and build in support of the rapidly developing Afghan capacity,” McKiernan said.
McKiernan said the deployment of 17,000 additional U.S. troops should be completed in time for them to help provide security for the presidential vote.
February 19, 2009
US General David McKiernan says concerted efforts, both military and civilian, are urgently needed to overcome Taliban fighters.