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Canada handling more than its share in Afghanistan: O'Connor

Canadian, British and U.S. troops have been bearing heavier burdens fighting in Afghanistan than other NATO countries, Gordon O'Connor said Thursday.

Canadian, British and U.S. troops have been bearingheavier burdens in the fight againstthe Taliban than other NATO countries, Canadian Defence Minister Gordon O'Connorsaid Thursday.

O'Connor made the comment to CBC News aftera top NATO official said allies involved in the Afghanistan mission should provide moresoldiers andequipment because Taliban attacks have been so fierce.

"We have more than met our commitment," O'Connor said in a telephone interview from Australia.

He said heplans to raise the issue at a meeting this weekend in Warsaw, Poland, where generals from the 26 NATO member countries will gather.

Canada, which has more than 2,000troops in Afghanistan, has lost 32Canadian soldiers and one diplomat since joining the missioninearly 2002.

The Canadian militaryis now in charge of NATO forces in southern Afghanistanand hasbeen leading the latest major offensive, an air-and-land assault into Afghanistan's volatile Panjwaii district west of Kandahar that started on Saturday.

NATO general asks for hundredsof newtroops

NATO's top commander, U.S. Gen. James Jones, appealed for military reinforcements in the region earlier Thursday, warning that the next few weeks could decide the mission's outcome.

Jones acknowledged that Canada has beena strong supporter of the NATO mission, telling CBC News in an interview that he plans to appeal to other nations in Warsaw to offer more resources.

"I think Canada has given very, very generously," he said.

Jones, who is NATO's Supreme Allied Commander,saidthe alliance'sbattle against militants in southern strongholds urgently needs more troops, helicopters and transport planes. Hundreds of additional soldiers could make all thedifference, he said.

"It will help us to reduce casualties and bring this to a successful conclusion in a short period of time," Jones told reporters at a briefing at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's European military headquarters in Mons, Belgium, according to Reuters news agency.

"We are talking about modest reinforcements."

He said he is certain the meeting will result in several hundred additional troops to support the operation.

While Jonesdid notsingle out any NATO members,a senior defence analyst with the Conference of Defence Associations said there's little doubt which countries he was talking about.

"He was really pointing his finger at the European states involved in the provincial reconstruction team in the north," retired colonel Brian MacDonald said in an interview with CBC News.

MacDonald, said Jones was likely aiming his remarks at NATO members such as France, Germany and Italy, "the big powers that have a comparatively small commitment to an area that is relatively peaceful."

Predicts turning point'before winter'

Jones said the "level of intensity" of the Taliban attacks surprised NATO when it stepped up its campaign in southern Afghanistan in July. He acknowledged that NATO did not expect Taliban fighters to stand and fight instead of using their old tactics of hit-and-run attacks.

Since Operation Medusa started on Saturday, five Canadians alone died in the offensive in two days: four in battles on Sunday and one on Monday in a mistaken bombing by U.S. warplanes.

Despite the casualties, which temporarily slowed the latest offensive, Jones expressed confidence that NATO troops would achieve their goals.

"In the relatively near future, certainly before the winter, we will see this decisive moment in the region turn in favour of the troops that represent the government," Jones said.

"This is not a desperate moment for the alliance; quite the opposite. There are many good things going on in the region and in the country that should give us hope for the future."

Jones also extended his condolences "to the families of the brave Canadian soldiers who lost their lives and to those who have been wounded in the fighting."

Taliban can't be entirely defeated: O'Connor

O'Connor has warned that NATO would not be able to defeat the Taliban completely, although it might be able to contain the insurgency in the south.

"There's a flow of Taliban back and forth into Pakistan. And so, we will eliminate pockets of the Taliban, and they will withdraw into Pakistan and they will come back again," the defence minister told CBC News on Thursday.

"Unless we have international co-operation, where Afghanistan and Pakistan work together and the allies work together to reduce and eventually eliminate the Taliban, we can't do it the way it's going now."

O'Connorsaid the Taliban had suffered many casualties in Operation Medusa and predicted the militants would not win against NATO forces.

NATO has said that more than 200 Taliban have died since Saturday, but the militants dismissed the claim, saying it was exaggerated.

With files from the Associated Press