Editorial comment: despite a very public plea by Nato Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, for additional soldiers to fight alongside British, Canadian and Dutch troops already operating in southern Afghanistan, it was met with little enthusiasm as The Middle East went to press.

Author:Lancaster, Pat
Position:CURRENT AFFAIRS - Editorial

The targets of Scheffer's plea were primarily France, Germany, Italy and Spain who, Nato officials believe, have failed to come up with the goods, despite a good deal of cajoling and, more latterly, badgering. "We are working on getting nations to do what they promised," said Mr de Hoop. "I am calling for alliance solidarity because some nations are carrying more of a burden than others."

Many of the countries urged to increase their military personnel quota are already involved in operations in the north of the country and have indicated that to volunteer additional troops for the south would leave them severely overstretched. "We do not have the capacity to send more," said a German Defence Ministry spokesman. "Our upper limit remains 3,000 troops and we have almost 2,900 on the ground already." In Paris the feeling is much the same. "France is already doing an awful lot in Afghanistan," a spokesman told the press. "We have over 1,000 troops there attached to the American-led Operation Enduring Freedom. And we are now committed to sending 2,000 soldiers to Lebanon. We have 14,000 troops deployed abroad in total--about the same as the UK. It is not lack of solidarity. It is a question of resources."

Turkey, having announced it will send 1,000 troops for the new United Nations force in Lebanon, is also unable to oblige; Italy is in a similar position and Spain has declared point blank that it considers the 690 Spanish troops in Afghanistan to be "more than sufficient".

Meanwhile, as western countries continue to argue the toss, violence in southern Afghanistan is escalating. Indeed, the highly publicised deaths and casualties on both sides have added to the problem of recruiting more troops. There has also been controversy over whether Nato's tough approach to tackling the insurgents has been the correct one. Some believe that rather...

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