Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary-general of Nato, urged the allies on Sunday to engage more international partners, including China, Russia, India and the republics of central Asia, in their efforts to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan and stabilise the country.

“We need Pakistan and all the other neighbours of Afghanistan to be engaged in a more constructive way,” he told the annual security conference in Munich. “We need an entirely new compact between all the actors on the security stage.”

Speaking before an audience of defence and foreign ministers, and senior security officials and analysts, from Russia and China as well as the US and all the other Nato members, he stopped short of asking for military support in Afghanistan but suggested other countries could do more to help train Afghan troops, provide equipment and spare parts, and curb drug-trafficking.

“What could be the harm for countries such as China, India, Pakistan and others to develop closer ties with Nato? If Afghanistan becomes a safe haven for terrorists they could easily spread through central Asia to Russia. Of course Afghanistan is not an island. There is no solution just within its borders.”

He talked of the neighbouring states doing more to forge a “political and military partnership” with Kabul.

Russia, which allows both civilian and military supplies to be delivered to Nato forces through its territory, could help by supplying helicopters, training for pilots and spare parts to the Afghan armed forces.

Although Russia might be cautious about sending any military personnel to Afghanistan after losing its own war in the country in the 1980s, such training could be done outside the country, he said.

Mr Rasmussen said it was “increasingly clear that a solution to the problems in Afghanistan requires an involvement of important players in the region”.

“Nato must develop a better capacity to engage with other international players. I would like to see Nato as the hub of a network of security partnerships. 

“In an age of globalised insecurity, our territorial defence must begin beyond our borders . . . Terrorism has mutated into a global franchise. Cyberattacks can seriously destabilise an economy. Piracy is a major threat to international shipping. Strategic heavy-metal armies are not going to impress terrorists, pirates or computer hackers.”

His words brought a cautious response from both Nato members and non-members at the conference, including Russian delegates, who had been invited to debate a fresh strategic concept for the alliance.

Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian state Duma, said: “Nato tries to act globally, but thinks locally.” Although there was a change in relations between Russia and the Nato allies since the election of Barack Obama, “We are concerned that Russia is still being informed [about this concept], not involved.”

As long as Nato operated within the borders of member states, that was logical, he said. “But as soon as Nato starts to reach beyond its borders, this is no longer an internal matter.”

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