NATO's secretary general said Tuesday the alliance plans to put more pressure on members to contribute troops to its fighting force in southern Afghanistan, saying some countries are bearing more of the burden than others.
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in an interview with BBC News in London that member countries need to provide troops to stand alongside Canadian, British and Dutch troops fighting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.
"I have called and I am calling in front of your microphones for alliance solidarity because some nations are carrying more of the burden than others. And a 26-nation alliance should show the solidarity, so I'm working hard as we speak," he said.
Gen. James Jones, NATO supreme allied commander inEurope,issued a plea last week for more soldiers, helicopters and transport planes to aidthe International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. More troops would bring a decisive end tothe battle against the Taliban and would likely mean fewer casualties, he said.
On Wednesday, NATO members will take part in a "force generation conference" at NATO headquarters in Mons, Belgium, to discuss the shortfalls in its Afghanistan mission.
ISAF, under a United Nations mandate, is an international force of some 20,000 troops from 37 countries that is trying to provide stability to Afghanistan. NATO took over the leadership of ISAF in August 2003.
Canada has more than 2,000 troops in Afghanistan, the majority stationed in Kandahar.
Scheffer said he does not expect any decisions about new contributions of troops to be made at the meeting, but he expects movement at two upcoming NATO meetings: one of NATO foreign ministers on Sept. 21, 2006, in New York City and another of NATO defence ministers on Sept. 28 to Sept. 30, 2006, in Portoroz, Slovenia.
"These are political decisions and it is up to the politicians in the capitals to do what they promised to do and my job is to make that happen," he said.
The first plea for more troops from NATO's top general came a day before a meeting of chiefs of defence of NATO members in Warsaw, Poland, on Sept. 8 to Sept. 9, 2006.
More troops needed
Mark Laity, spokesperson for NATO in Kabul, told CBC News on Tuesday that NATO countries have acknowledged the need for more troops but have yet to produce those troops.
"I've seen some people say it is a crisis. What you're seeing down in the south is a challenge. But Canadians, Dutch, British— they are performing magnificently. In Operation Medusa, which is Canadian-led, we have had significant progress in the last few days. Operation Medusa is really going quite well," he said.
"If we don't the get the troops, we are going to carry on and finish the job. We have got enough to do an awful lot. If you have more, you do more. This extra pressure means things aren't progressing as fast as we would like them to progress."
The battle against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, known as Operation Medusa, appears to be entering its final phase, according to commanders on the ground. The battle, a dangerous one, has led to the deaths of four Canadians in combat since it began more than a week ago.
Commanders said Canadian troops were continuing to advance on Tuesday as they tried to reclaim territory held by the Taliban in the volatile Panjwaii district in southern Afghanistan.
For the third straight day, Canadians troops encountered no resistance as they rolled south.
Ambushes, rocket attacks and skirmishes last week marked the first phase of the battle.
In its first week, four Canadian soldiers and one U.S. soldier were killed and more than a dozen troops wounded. An airplane accident also resulted in the deaths of 14 British troops, and a mistaken bombing killed a Canadian soldier. The bodies of the British troops were flown to their home base on Tuesday.
Commanders said there will still be weeks of mop-up operations in the area even though the battle appears to be ending.
Laity said the Taliban have suffered significant casualties. "The Taliban knows there are enough forces to give them a really hard time," he said. "We are fighting with a purpose."