Saturday, October 24, 2009

No more troops to Afghanistan now: NATO members

Updated on : Saturday, October 24, 2009

BRATISLAVA: NATO members the Netherlands and Denmark said Friday they will not send more troops to Afghanistan unless its Nov. 7 presidential runoff creates a legitimate government and until President Barack Obama decides on a new strategy.

Dutch Defense Minister Eimert Van Middelkoop said his country, with 2,160 troops in Afghanistan, is awaiting the final election results "because the legitimacy of the Afghan government is key," as well as a decision by the Obama administration.

"I think most countries are waiting for the American decisions," van Middelkoop said at a meeting in Bratislava of the defense ministers of the 28 NATO countries.

The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, was briefing NATO ministers — including U.S. Defense Minister Robert Gates — on his view of the war in Afghanistan at the meeting.

Danish Defense Minister Soeren Gade said allies won't increase troop levels until they are assured the new government in Kabul is committed to the international effort.

"I think whoever is going to send more troops to Afghanistan will put up some conditions," said Gade, whose country has 690 soldiers in Afghanistan.

"They need to see the new Afghan president and say: 'If we send more troops to your country, you have to deal with this, this and this.' We have to make sure the new government in Afghanistan are committed to their job before we send any more troops to Afghanistan."

On the sidelines of the meeting, the top U.N. official in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, said the extensive fraud that marked the first round of presidential elections will be reduced but not eliminated in the runoff.

"We will not be able to carry out dramatic changes," Eide said.

He added that the security situation has not improved since the Aug. 20 ballot, when threats by Taliban militants resulted in a very low turnout despite a massive campaign by NATO troops and government forces to prevent attacks. He said that whatever government is formed after the elections must reach out to the insurgents.

"A peace and reconciliation process with the (insurgents) should be one of the top priorities of the new government," he said.

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