NATO allies pledge more non-combat troops for Afghanistan

A NATO summit has ended with the naming of a new secretary general and a promise to deploy 5,000 more troops to train Afghanistan's police and army and provide security for the country's summer election.

Summit ends with Danish PM named as next NATO chief

A two-day NATO summit wrapped up in Strasbourg, France, on Saturday with the naming of a new secretary general and a promise to send 5,000 more troops to train Afghanistan's police and army and provide security for the country's election this summer.

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, left, shakes hands with outgoing NATO secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the NATO summit in Strasbourg, France, on Saturday. ((Michel Euler/Associated Press))

At a news conference to close the summit, U.S. President Barack Obama announced the deployment and said non-combat troops in Afghanistan are as important as those directly in harm's way.

He said the agreement to send more soldiers is a "strong down payment" on the future of the alliance's mission in Afghanistan.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said 900 troops will come from Britain, 600 from Germany and 600 from Spain. Italy and France have also pledged to send troops, mainly to provide security for the Aug. 20 election.

Earlier in the day, France and Germany praised Obama's new military strategy in Afghanistan but resisted U.S. requests for more combat troops.

Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy stressed the need for Afghanistan's government and security forces to shoulder an increasing share of the burden.

They gave no sign they were prepared to send more troops. Both countries believe civilian aid and training for police are what is needed to stabilize Afghanistan.

There are more than 70,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, mostly under NATO command. Obama recently announced he would sent an additional 21,000 U.S. troops.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters in Strasbourg that Canada "welcomes" the U.S.'s new approach and was "delighted" with its consultations with Obama.

'We have pushed for enhanced civilian and military commitment and integration from all alliance members," he said. "Providing the Afghan people with enhanced election security is an immediate priority."

About 2,500 Canadian soldiers are in Afghanistan, mostly in and around Kandahar, as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

Danish PM to become new NATO leader in August

The summit, marking the 60th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also saw the naming of a new secretary general.

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen won out in a bid to become NATO chief after a heated internal debate with Turkey.

The Turks were upset with Rasmussen's handling of a cartoon controversy in 2006 that offended some people in the Muslim world when he defended the right to print cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Fogh Rasmussen announced he'll be taking up the "transformation of NATO" when he officially assumes the post in August, taking over from Jaap de Hoop Scheffer of the Netherlands. He will be the first sitting prime minister to take on the NATO role. 

De Hoop Scheffer did not say whether Rasmussen was the only candidate for the top NATO post or whether Turkey was the only NATO country to object to his candidacy.

Other possible candidates for NATO's top post were said to have included Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay, former British defence minister Des Browne and Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere.

Unanimous choice

De Hoop Scheffer said there was unanimous agreement to name Fogh Rasmussen as leader of the 28-member alliance.

"Every head of state and government is fully convinced that Anders Fogh Rasmussen is the best choice for NATO," said the alliance's outgoing secretary general.

He also spoke of NATO's role in Afghanistan, saying the alliance will provide more trainers and more mentors for the Afghan police and the Afghan National Army.

"We will deploy the forces necessary to support the upcoming elections in Afghanistan," he added.

Obama welcomed Albania and Croatia into the organization and declared to other nations that "the door to membership will remain open."

"It is a measure of our vitality that we are still welcoming new members," Obama said of the military alliance.

With files from the Associated Press