U.S. makes urgent appeal to NATO on Afghan training

Thu Feb 4, 2010 3:17pm GMT

By Adam Entous

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates is pressing NATO allies to send up to 4,000 more trainers and mentors to prepare Afghanistan's army and police to begin taking over security next year, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The shortage of trainers and mentors has cast doubt on U.S. President Barack Obama's timetable for starting to hand over responsibility to Afghan forces so U.S. and allied troops can begin a gradual withdrawal from the country in July 2011.

"I call 2010 the year of maximum effort," said U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder.

"It is a year we are going to do everything we can so down the road we have to do less. ... The key here is the more we can accomplish in 2010 the more we can transition in 2011 and beyond, the more we can draw down," he told reporters.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Gates would appeal to NATO defence ministers meeting in Istanbul Thursday and Friday to "contribute their forces to this cause in as timely a manner as possible, just as we are."

Obama has ordered 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan with the aim of containing a widening Taliban insurgency while building up the strength of Afghan forces.

"We are in the midst of an expedited surge in the United States. He will implore them to act as quickly as they can to get their forces into the fight because time is of the essence," Morrell told reporters.


<p>A U.S. soldier of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) walks on a road in Siavashan village near Herat December 14, 2009. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl</p>
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