Against a backdrop of spreading insurgent violence in Afghanistan and an increasing criticism of airstrikes, Defense Secretary Robert Gates insists NATO must share the cost of helping the country to self-sufficiency.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates called upon NATO Friday to contribute to a planned expansion of Afghanistan’s national army.
According to the Associated Press , the expansion is part of a strategy to prevent the country from once again becoming a haven for terrorists by increasing the number of soldiers in the Afghan army from its present level of 80,000 to 134,000. Gates said the United States and NATO are invested in seeing the Afghan army take control of the country’s security.
“Turning security responsibilities over to the Afghans themselves at some future date is really the goal that we all have in mind and we need to be prepared to share the cost,” he said.
The appeal to U.S. allies came at the conclusion of a NATO meeting, just one day after Gates said the Bush administration is reviewing its war strategy in Afghanistan and just two days after Gates offered Afghan President Hamid Karzai “condolences and his personal regrets ” for recent airstrikes that killed civilians in Afghanistan.
Gates apology followed an assessment by a top military commander in Afghanistan, the AP reports :
Gen. David McKiernan, the commander of international forces in Afghanistan, had said earlier that the chronic shortage of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is forcing commanders to rely more on air combat. U.S. airstrikes that kill civilians have angered and embarrassed the U.S.-backed Afghan government, and Karzai has been bitterly critical of such attacks.