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More NATO Troops Likely For Afghanistan

America's NATO allies should be offering more troops for Afghanistan in the weeks ahead, above and beyond the 7,000 already committed, the top Pentagon policy official said Monday.

The U.S. military expects "additional allied troops to be pledged," Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of Defense for policy, said at a briefing held at the GOP-affiliated American Enterprise Institute. Flournoy hinted that the increased numbers might come from Britain, Germany or France, since she said that the increase would come from large NATO countries. Germany has roughly 4,400 and France has about 3,100 troops in theater now. Senior NATO military officials are meeting today in Belgium to discuss new troops commitments. One ally outside of NATO, Georgia, has promised 900 troops and that could swell to as many 2,000 troops, according to news reports

Britain already has pledged another 500 troops. Italy may send 1,000 extra soldiers, and be joined by Poland, likely to send 600 more. France has so far rejected American entreaties for more troops. The Netherlands and Canada have discussed withdrawing from Afghanistan altogether, but Flournoy said the U.S. is "still in dialogue with them. We very much hope they will stay with us."

Flournoy conceded there was some uncertainty about just how many of the 7,000 troops already promised by allies would be new to the fight. "There are some allies who have surged for tee [Afghan] election who will stay, but most are new," she said. Flournoy oversees America's military relations with allies in her job as senior policy official.

Army Brig. Gen. John Nicholson, director of the Joint Staff’s Pakistan-Afghanistan coordination cell, noted that Canada, Denmark and other allies have lost more troops as a percentage of their population than has the United States, As an example of the unheralded sacrifices made by NATO allies, Nicholson pointed to the Dutch chief of the defense staff, whose son died in Afghanistan the day his father started his job.

Regardless of how exactly how many troops make it to Afghanistan over the next six to 12 months, more American and NATO troops will die and be wounded, Nicholson said. "We are about to make more sacrifices," he said, noting that many critics will focus on that. But, he said, "it will be very important for us to look beyond that," at the larger strategic goals those fighting men and women will sacrifice to win.

Flournoy said the new effort is ore focused and should succeed. "While there is certainly no silver bullet here, it is the option most likely to succeed," she said. There are six core operational goals of the new strategy. First and foremost is reversing the Taliban's forward momentum. The others amount to ways of reversing that momentum.

To ensure Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of all allied forces in Afghanistan, can accomplish those goals, Flournoy said President Obama has given McChrystal "complete freedom" to decide where to send troops and just how to mix his forces to achieve the best result.

On the controversial issue of whether the president was wise to set a date by which US troops would begin to withdraw, Flournoy said that decision was taken to send the very clear signal that "our military mission will not be open ended." And she stressed that the pace and character of the drawdown "will be determined by conditions on the ground." The Obama administration had performed a "district by district analysis" to determine when US forces might be able to transfer responsibility for security to Afghan authorities. Based on that analysis, "we have very high confidence the US can begin pullout by that date," Flournoy said.

On the civil side, the US plans to open two new consulates in Afghanistan, one in Mazar-i-Sharif and another in Herat while it ramps up the civilian surge to get at least 1,000 agricultural and other experts in country, said Paul Jones, the State Department's deputy special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Both Jones and Flournoy stressed that when US forces begin to draw down, that will not mean the US is abandoning its commitment to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The US will remain engaged there "long after" the conflict ends," Jones said.

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