U.K. Lawmakers Press NATO for More Afghanistan Troops

By Mark Deen

July 18 (Bloomberg) -- British lawmakers pressed NATO allies to send more troops to Afghanistan, saying they have yet to acknowledge the extent of the commitment needed to stabilize the country and defeat insurgents.

``We remain deeply concerned that the reluctance of some NATO members to provide troops for the ISAF mission is undermining NATO's credibility,'' Parliament's Defense Committee said today in a report.

With 7,100 troops in Afghanistan, Britain has the second- biggest contingent of foreign soldiers in the country behind the U.S. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has a total of 36,000 troops in Afghanistan battling the resurgent Taliban, the radical Islamic movement toppled from power by the U.S. in 2001.

France, Germany and Italy are facing criticism for keeping their forces out of Taliban strongholds in southern and eastern Afghanistan, leaving the U.S., Britain, Canada and the Netherlands to do the bulk of the fighting. Restrictions on the use of those European troops known as ``caveats'' are one of the main concerns of U.K. lawmakers, along with the lack of numbers.

``Afghanistan has experienced 30 years of strife,'' the lawmakers said in their report. If NATO's commitment to stabilizing it is to succeed, ``its size and strength must be very great, in our view greater than the international community is at present willing to acknowledge, let alone make.''

NATO Mission

Some 17,000 American troops are part of the NATO mission and another 12,000 are under a separate U.S. counterterrorism command. The Netherlands, which has 1,660 soldiers in Afghanistan, said it will review its deployment after Parliament's summer break finishes on Oct. 8.

``We will then decide if the Dutch government will extend its mission,'' Robert Middel, Ministry of Defense spokesman, said by telephone from The Hague today. ``If that is the case, then we will take a look at how the mission will be extended. All options are on the table.''

U.K. Defence Secretary Des Browne said he is asking allies for more support in Afghanistan.

``There are of course problems here -- it is a very difficult environment,'' Browne said on BBC Radio 4's ``Today'' program. ``We need to work together to do this. Suggesting we should come out'' is ``exactly the wrong thing to do.''

The U.K. lawmakers called on their government to increase the provision of helicopters to the country and see if allies could provide more air support to British troops.

The government should also state its planning assumptions for the mission and clarify the likely length of the deployment beyond 2009, they said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mark Deen in London at

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