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AFGHANISTAN

NATO chief chides Europe for refusal to send troops

Text by: FRANCE 24 (with wires)
3 min

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has criticised European allies for refusing to send more troops to Afghanistan to match US efforts to step up operations there, saying the refusal was not good for the "political balance" of the mission.

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NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer criticised European allies Saturday for refusing to send more troops to Afghanistan to match new efforts planned by the United States.
  
"I am frankly concerned when I hear the United States is planning a major commitment for Afghanistan, but other allies ruling out doing more," he said, at a major international security conference in Munich, southern Germany.
  
"That is not good for the political balance of this mission. That is not good for the balance inside the North Atlantic alliance," he said. "Leadership and burdens -- they go together."
  
Scheffer, who did not single out any nation, warned that the failure to step up "makes calls for Europe's voice to be heard in Washington perhaps a bit more hollow than they should be."
  
New US President Barack Obama has singled out Afghanistan as his main front in the "war on terrorism" and plans to deploy 30,000 more US troops there over the next 18 months.
  

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is embarked on its biggest and most-ambitious operation ever trying to spread the influence of the weak Afghan government across the strife-torn country and help foster reconstruction.

  

But the Taliban and its backers, including Al-Qaeda, drug lords and criminal gangs, have been waging an increasingly tenacious insurgency and seriously undermining NATO's goals.

  
Britain, Canada, the Netherlands and the United States have troops on the frontline of that fight in southern Afghanistan, but other allies insist that reconstruction is as important as combat and refuse to redeploy.
  

On Wednesday, Britain also scolded its NATO allies for not stepping forward to share combat duties, warning that there could be no freeloaders in the fight against the insurgents.

  

"An alliance worth its name must be one that shares the burden of membership equally amongst its members, because there can be no freeloading when it comes to collective security," British Defence Secretary John Hutton said.

  

"Volunteering, not waiting to be asked, must be the hallmark of a proper relationship between the transatlantic members of this alliance," he told NATO ambassadors.

 

Scheffer also criticised Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's proposal for a new pan-European security architecture, saying it was incompatible with Russia's actions in Georgia.

 
Scheffer said it was difficult to take the proposal seriously when Russia was building military bases in the rebel Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
 

"I cannot see how we can have a serious discussion of such a new architecture in which President Medvedev himself says territorial integrity is the primary element when Russia is building bases inside Georgia," he said.

 

"That cannot be ignored and that cannot be the basis of a new security architecture," Scheffer told an audience of dignitaries from around the world at a major international security conference in Munich.

 

The comments came one day after Scheffer met Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov on the sidelines of the conference, in the highest-level contact between NATO and Russia since last August's war in Georgia.

 
 

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