BRUSSELS -- Ivo Daalder, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, says he expects NATO allies will heed a call by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to send an additional 5,000 troops to Afghanistan during the next year. But he says it is too early to say which countries would be involved or how many troops they will send.
Daalder's remarks came in an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan today on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.
"What we're looking at is as much capability in terms of troops and trainers and trust funds as we can," Daalder says. "We are in the very early stages of a dialogue that the Secretary General of NATO has led and the United States strongly supports. But we're only in the very early stages and already we have successfully found a number of countries who are willing to provide significant resources."
Daalder says that in addition to 30,000 additional U.S. soldiers that will be sent to Afghanistan during 2010, he thinks there also will be at least 5,000 additional troops from other NATO deploying next year.
"We will continue to press other countries to make sure they deliver, too, in terms of troops and trainers and trust funds," Daalder says."At the end of this process, which will take a number of weeks to complete, we expect there will be a very significant allied contribution, as there has been all along, to this Afghan operation."
At the end of this process, which will take a number of weeks to complete, we expect there will be a very significant allied contribution, as there has been all along, to this Afghan operation.
NATO's secretary-general said on December 2 that the allies would contribute at least 5,000 more troops to the war and reconstruction effort in Afghanistan -- "and probably a few thousand more."
European countries have been reluctant to add large numbers of soldiers to the mission in Afghanistan in order to support an Afghan government that has been tainted by corruption and election fraud. Some leaders are expected to wait for an international conference on Afghanistan in London next month before promising any more troops.
Rasmussen did not specify where the additional 5,000 alliance soldiers would come from or how many would come from Europe. So far, most of the pledges of additional troops have been small numbers from smaller nations in NATO.
Britain, France, and Germany appear to be holding off on any large, new troop pledges until the London conference in late January.
Italy's defense minister says his country will send about 1,000 new troops. Britain pledged an additional 500 troops earlier this week, and Poland said it could send another 500 soldiers.
Those pledges follow U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement that the United States will deploy an additional 30,000 U.S. troops -- raising the total number of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan to more than 100,000. At present, other NATO members collectively have about 38,000 troops in Afghanistan.
Daalder says it is very important for Afghan President Hamid Karzai to show real progress on his inaugural address pledge to crack down on corruption:
"We expect President Karzai to understand, as indeed he said in his speech, that change is necessary, that the way of doing business in the past cannot continue in the future," Daalder says. "As a result, we will work with him to make those improvements and we will make sure that those improvements happen because, otherwise, our ability to continue our support will be reduced."
Daalder emphasizes that the U.S. strategy is based on building up Afghanistan's own security forces so they can take control of their own country and foreign forces can start to leave in about 18 months:
"What the president said following the assessment of General [Stanley] McChrystal, the force commander, is we need to retake the initiative," Daalder says. "That will require us to build up very rapidly our forces in order to target the insurgency. That will allow us then to concentrate on training Afghan forces."
"Over time we can transfer responsibility for security from the international community increasingly to the Afghan forces themselves," Daalder continues. "And [President Obama] believes that that process -- the first part of that process -- will take about 18 months, and that the transition to the Afghan forces will start after those 18 months."
Pakistan is very much part of the solution to Afghanistan, just as improvements in Afghanistan are going to be part of the solution in Pakistan.
The Afghan army now has about 94,000 soldiers and plans to expand to about 134,000. Afghanistan's national police force numbers about 93,000. U.S., NATO, and Afghan government forces face an estimated 25,000 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, with more in neighboring Pakistan.
"When [President Obama] came to office, he immediately said we have to look at Afghanistan in a regional context," Daalder says. "Pakistan is very much part of the solution to Afghanistan, just as improvements in Afghanistan are going to be part of the solution in Pakistan. So as part of the strategy the president has made very clear that we [also] need to partner together with the Pakistan government in order to deal with the safe areas and the safe havens in the border region with Afghanistan. And this is a major part of what the president of the United States in his new strategy has put on the table."