BRATISLAVA: The top US military commander in Afghanistan planned an unexpected appearance today at a meeting of NATO defence ministers focused on making Afghan security forces responsible for fighting the war there.
Officials said Army
Gen. Stanley McChrystal
was to brief NATO ministers, including US Defence
Secretary Robert Gates,
on his view of the war
in Afghanistan.
A document provided to The Associated Press outlines formal NATO approval of plans to eventually give Afghan army and police officials control over a war that is in its ninth year.
The plans specifically do not require any withdrawal of the 104,000 US and NATO troops that will be in Afghanistan by the end of the year.
Instead, they officially
affirm NATO’s intent to
shift from being in charge
of security and rebuilding
in the war-torn nation to
taking a backup role to Afghan officials, according to the document.
“This is not associated with any force withdrawal or predetermined decrease in force level requirements,” the document written by NATO’s public diplomacy division states. “It will entail a change in the nature of the security assistance provided to the Afghans and the balance of responsibility.” It described a gradual transition of power to Afghan forces even as US and NATO troops continue to battle the Taliban and other insurgents. The plans to do provide a deadline for the transition.
In a force request handed over last month, McChrystal asked President Barack Obama for up to 80,000 additional U.S. troops for the fight, although one official familiar with the plan said the White House appears to favour half that number, or 40,000.
The official said McChrystal would not push NATO
officials to adopt his recommendations at Friday’s meetings. Gates said he
will prod NATO for more economic and security aid
to Afghanistan while
trying to sidestep the
simmering international
debate over sending more troops to the fight.
Faced with growing
military deaths and dwindling public support for
the war, some NATO officials have signaled they won’t
ask their nations to send more troops until the Obama administration decides whether America will.