Twenty nations offer to boost Afghan troops

Gates urges NATO to provide more forces to fight Taliban


Up to 20 nations have offered to boost their civilian or military commitments to Afghanistan, United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday, as NATO battles a Taliban-led insurgency there.

"Over the last couple of days, 19 or 20 countries announced at one point or another in the meetings that they would be increasing their contribution, either on the civilian or the military or the training side," he said.

"So I consider that a good start as we begin to look toward the summit" of NATO leaders in early April, he told reporters in Krakow, southern Poland after informal talks between alliance defense ministers.

"I expect that there will be significant new commitments on either the civilian or the military side in connection with the NATO summit," he said, after Washington announced it would deploy 17,000 more troops in Afghanistan.

During the talks, Gates urged the 26-nation military bloc to provide more forces to fight the Taliban, but also to help train police and fight corruption within the Afghan government.

"We are facing a very tough test in Afghanistan," he said.

But he underlined: "If other countries are unable to strengthen their military commitment but they are willing and able to make a contribution on the stability side, on the development, governance side, those contributions would be very welcome."

Gates insisted that U.S. President Barack Obama had not yet begun seeking contributions from allies but that he would do so after Washington has completed a major review of its policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"Our new president has not yet asked anybody for anything. We are trying to develop through this review what those needs are most likely to be. At that point, before the NATO summit we will be making those requests."