US gains support for Afghan surge

Nato's secretary general says allies have pledged 7,000 troops to help battle the Taliban insurgency.

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US allies in Afghanistan have so far offered some 7,000 troops to help battle the Taliban insurgency and there are "more to come", the Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said today. "At least 25 countries will send more forces to the mission in 2010," he told reporters after chairing talks with Nato foreign ministers in Brussels. "They have offered around 7,000 forces with more to come," he said.

The US president Barack Obama announced this week the dispatch of more than 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan as part of a new strategy to try to seize the initiative from Taliban and al Qa'eda fighters. He called on other countries to come up with 5,000-7,000 troops, and Nato officials expressed confidence yesterday that they would surpass the 5,000-figure. Mr Rasmussen said: "In addition to the clear pledges already tabled, we have heard indications ... that other allies and partners will probably be in a position to announce contributions in the coming weeks and months."

"ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) will have at least 37,000 more soldiers in 2010 than it did this year," he said. "That is solidarity in action." With Mr Obama announcing the start of a withdrawal of US troops in mid-2011, Rasmussen insisted that there would be no hasty departure from the country, where Nato leads more than 70,000 troops from over 40 nations. "There is no doubt the going will be tough, no one should expect instant results," he said. "But it will not be a run for the exit."