Petraeus briefs Nato on Afghan mission

Nato's newly appointed commander of the Afghanistan war briefs alliance officials about his plans for the escalating conflict.

General David Petraeus visited Nato headquarters in Brussels today to confer with allies before heading to Afghanistan to take command of the faltering campaign.
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BRUSSELS // Gen David Petraeus, Nato's newly appointed commander of the Afghanistan war, briefed alliance officials today about his plans for the escalating conflict. Officials said Mr Petraeus met with secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen and addressed the North Atlantic Council, the alliance's top decision-making body. Mr Petraeus will likely try to smooth ruffled feathers among European allies contributing troops to the 122,000-strong international force. Diplomats say member governments were not consulted about the changeover in command after the US president Barack Obama's sudden dismissal of Mr Petraeus' predecessor, Gen Stanley McChrystal.

Fogh Rasmussen found himself expressing support for Mr McChrystal after the scornful remarks he made to Rolling Stone magazine, only to backtrack the following day and give his backing to Mr Obama's decision to replace him with Mr Petraeus. US troops account for most of the 122,000-strong international force in Afghanistan, while European and other allies make up about a third of the force. The top US general is also the commander of the entire Nato force.

Mr McChrystal's sacking came amid growing disillusionment with the war in Europe, and a spate of bad news from the battlefields. Allied deaths have doubled in the first six months of this year, with June the deadliest month on record for Nato troops in the nine-year conflict. Meanwhile, a widely touted offensive aimed at retaking control of Kandahar, the biggest city in the south, has been repeatedly delayed.

And Nato's plans to train and gradually hand over responsibility to the growing Afghan army and police forces also has run into trouble. The training programme has been hobbled by a lack of trainers, and a recent report by the US special inspector general for Afghanistan found that the US has often overestimated the ability of Afghan security forces to fight on their own. * AP