Poland on Thursday committed 1,000 new troops for Nato’s force in Afghanistan, after a formal meeting of the alliance on Wednesday failed to meet an urgent military request for hundreds of extra soldiers.
The Polish troops will join the 100 already on the ground in Afghanistan but are unlikely to arrive until February 2007.
The push for reinforcements put the spotlight on Nato’s struggle to help establish a stable government in Afghanistan and on its long-term prospects as a military alliance.
At an emergency meeting on Wednesday, Nato’s 26 member countries came up with no commitments for any new soldiers – in spite of a call last week by General James Jones, Nato’s supreme commander, for up to 2,500 troops.
Nato said: “We have had indications in terms of force generation to fill the outstanding requirement...the operation commanders, including Gen Jones, are confident that they have sufficient forces in the theatre to be able to complete the operation successfully.” The alliance said it had managed to clear Taliban insurgents from 55 per cent of the area surrounding their former stronghold of Kandahar.
Lord Garden, a former senior air force officer who acts as a defence spokesman for Britain’s Liberal Democratic party, said: “Part of the problem... is Nato funding. If you volunteer, not only do you provide the troops, you have to provide the money to fund them.”
Diplomats sought to emphasise that the Nato mission was a long way from failure. Victoria Nuland, US ambassador to Nato, said: “One of the things that is getting lost here is that the operation against the Taliban is a huge success. The extra troops will allow us to win faster and more decisively and to continue reconstruction at the same time.”
However, casualties taken by British troops in the southern province of Helmand have increased controversy over the mission.