US defence chief Robert Gates called on Friday for a rapid expansion of Afghanistan's military capability, saying that the conflict there was "the Afghans' war for their own country", and not an American or NATO war.
US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Friday that Afghanistan's military must be expanded and that the conflict needs to be recognized as "an Afghan war, not an American war and not a NATO war."
Promoting the "most rapid possible further expansion" of Kabul's military force, Gates said: "We would be making a terrible mistake if this ends up being called America's war. This is the Afghans' war for their own country, and we need to make sure they know we are not there to run it, we are there to help."
"What everybody would like to see is the most rapid possible further expansion of the Afghan military forces, because this needs to be an Afghan war, not an American war and not a Nato war," he told journalists on an airplane returning to Washington from Florida, where he oversaw the promotion of General David Petraeus to the head of Central Command.
Afghanistan has seen a spike in violence from a resurgent Taliban in the last two years, and Gates acknowledged the disparity between focus on Iraq and Afghanistan.
"There are close to a million people (serving in) security services of different kinds in Iraq," he said.
"In Afghanistan, which has four more million people (than Iraq) and is a third bigger than Iraq, they (the security forces) are 150,000."
US and NATO military commanders have voiced support in recent days for three additional combat brigades for the Afghan theater of operations, to counter the upsurge in violence.
Washington has already announced reinforcements of 2,000 Marines to be sent to Afghanistan in November, and a 3,700-strong brigade in January.
Gates said that several NATO countries "indicated their willingness to send some extra troops," but added that the US would have to bolster the numbers.
"My personal view is that we are not likely to get significant numbers of troops from our allies," he said.
Petraeus, the newly appointed US commander with responsibility for Iraq and Afghanistan, is credited with turning around the Sunni insurgency in western Iraq with the 30,000 troop "surge" to secure parts of that country.
Many hope Petraeus will bring his counter-insurgency expertise to bear in Afghanistan.
The time for such leadership is warranted, said Gates on Friday.
"The military strategy throughout Afghanistan and with our coalition partners needs greater coherence and I think General Petraeus can help ... in doing that."
UK SAS HEAD QUITS OVER EQUIPMENT FAILURES
The head of Britain's special forces in Afghanistan has resigned, it emerged Saturday, reportedly in disgust at equipment failures that he believes led to the death of four of his troops.
Major Sebastian Morley, commander of SAS (Special Air Service) troops in Afghanistan, accused the government of "chronic underinvestment" in equipment in his resignation letter, The Daily Telegraph reported.
He had repeatedly warned that people would be killed if military commanders and government officials continued to allow troops to be transported in the lightly armoured Snatch Land Rover vehicles, it said.
Four of his soldiers died in June when their Snatch Land Rover hit a landmine in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. Morley believes they died needlessly, the newspaper said.
A defence source confirmed Morley had resigned, but stressed there were also "personal reasons" for his decision.
The Daily Telegraph reported one soldier who served with Morley as saying his commanding officers had tried "everything in their power to stop us using Snatch" but the Ministry of Defence had failed to act.
The ministry responded: "Equipping our personnel is a clear priority and we are absolutely focused on providing them with a range of vehicles that will protect them from the ever-shifting threats posed by the enemy."
Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced Wednesday that Britain would buy up to 700 new and upgraded armoured vehicles to protect its forces in Afghanistan, spending about 700 million pounds (1.13 billion dollars, 880 million euros).
Britain has about 7,800 troops serving in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operating in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has mounted growing attacks in recent months.
Date created : 2008-11-01