More countries offering troops for Afghanistan, NATO officials say

As many as nine NATO nations may be willing to send more soldiers to Afghanistan, NATO officials said Wednesday.

As many asnine NATO nations may be willing to send more soldiers to Afghanistan, NATO officials said Wednesday.

One NATO official said four of the nine countries have said their military personnel will go to the unstable south, the Canadian Press reported.

Although there has been no confirmation of which countries would be involved, France and Germany are reportedly among them. But their troopswouldserve asmilitary trainerswho work with Afghan police and soldiers.

The news follows the first day ofa two-daymeeting of NATO defence ministersin the Netherlands.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer wouldn’t identify the countries, saying it will be up to individual governments to say what they are prepared to contribute.

"I've noticed offers from nations, including for the southern part of Afghanistan," he told a news conference.

Defence Minister Peter MacKaysaid other countries are now accepting that they have to do more in violent regions.

"There was a general acceptance of the fact that there has to be greater burden sharing and that recognition has been there for some time," MacKay said.

Earlier, MacKay called on hisNATO counterpartsfor more troops, equipment and military trainers for Afghanistan.

The Dutch defence minister opened the talkson Wednesday with a call for other European countries to shoulder their fair share of the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"There is no such thing as a free ride to peace and security," saidEimert van Middelkoop, the defence minister.

"It is not about what we are willing to say for a safer and more just world," van Middelkoop said. "It ultimately depends on what we are willing to do. Fair risk and burden sharing will remain the leading principle for this alliance."

Diplomatic language dropped

CBC's David Common said the diplomatic language that usually accompaniesNATO meetings was not present at this gathering. The U.S., Canada, Britain and the Netherlands— the nations that do most of the fighting in Afghanistan— made more pointed commentsin asking other nations to step up and do their part.

Along with more troops and equipment, nations were asked tosend more military trainers to work with Afghan police and soldiers.

U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates cranked up the pressure on wavering countries earlier in the week, withcriticism ofNATO countries who failed to provide the extra troops promised last year.

"I am not satisfied that an alliance whose members have overtwo million soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen cannot find the modest additional resources that have been committed for Afghanistan," Gates said Monday during a visit to Ukraine.

Gates is expected to seek helicopters, transport planes and quick-manoeuvre troops to fill gaps in the 40,000-strong Afghan force.

Within the next few days, the Dutch government is expected to approve an extension beyond 2008 for the country's deployment in the restive province north of Kandahar, Uruzgan, though with a reduced contingent. The head of the Dutch military has recommended decreasing the number of soldiers in the mission by 600 to 1,200.

In Germany, the lower house of parliament recently renewed its commitment to keep 3,500 soldiers in the relatively quiet northern area of Mazar-e-Sharif.

With files from the Canadian Press and the Associated Press