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NATO Says Allies Must Follow U.S. In Boosting Afghan Forces

James Appathurai: "It would be seen in the United States as the Europeans not pulling their weight."
BRUSSELS (Reuters) -- Other NATO members must follow the United States in committing additional forces to Afghanistan to ensure the burden of the battle against militants is properly shared, the alliance has said.

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said Washington aims to send 20,000 to 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan by the beginning of next summer to combat a growing Taliban insurgency in the east and south.

A NATO spokesman said the additional U.S. troops would go a long way to meeting the needs assessment of U.S. Army General David McKiernan, commander of international forces in Afghanistan. But other allies still had to do more.

"We want to ensure that as the U.S. increases we have a proper balance between what the Americans are doing and what the other allies are doing -- both for military and political reasons," James Appathurai said.

"[NATO] Secretary-General [Jaap de Hoop Scheffer] would like to see an increase, not only from the Americans, but also from other allies, in particular the Europeans, to ensure we have a political, as well as a military, sharing of burdens within this mission," he said.

A NATO diplomat said the alliance wanted to avoid a situation in which two or three of the 26 allies did almost all the dangerous work.

"Politically that can go badly very, very quickly," he said. "It would be seen in the United States as the Europeans not pulling their weight."

The United States already has some 31,000 troops in Afghanistan, out of a total foreign force there of more than 65,000 from over 40 nations.

Britain has the second biggest force at 8,700, more than twice as many troops as next-in-line Germany, France, Canada, and Italy.

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, who takes office in January, has pledged a renewed focus on Afghanistan, where U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban government in late 2001 after the September 11 attacks.

McKiernan has said he wants the extra forces to reach a "tipping point" against the Taliban and no longer wants to launch operations to clear an area unless he has forces to hold onto it and bring in aid and development.