Source AP ©

NATO lacks 50 percent troops in Afghanistan

NATO secretary general said Friday that the alliance lacked about 50 percent soldiers to properly train Afghanistan 's army, calling for more contributions.

NATO Chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, in Stockholm for a two-day visit to non-members Sweden and Finland, said the allied force was "lagging behind" because it did not have enough training teams within its International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, including NATO and its partners.

"We (NATO) are less than 50 percent of the capacity we need to properly train the Afghan national army," he said.

NATO commanders see the development of a trained Afghan army as key to an eventual scaling down of the 41,000 allied force in the country, but they have struggled to persuade governments to provide embedded training and mentoring teams to serve with Afghan units.

"We have to find an answer, and nations have to do more," de Hoop Scheffer said at the news conference, held along with Swedish Defense Minister Sten Tolgfors.

A meeting this week at allied military headquarters in southern Belgium sought to muster more such units.

"This force generation conference has yielded some positive results," said a statement late Thursday from Gen. John McColl, NATO's deputy supreme commander in Europe. However, the statement gave no details, and said headquarters would still "continue to press hard for new contributions."

NATO wants to almost double the 26 training units it currently has embedded with the Afghan army.

At a meeting of NATO defense ministers last month in the Netherlands, Germany said it would triple its contribution to the training mission, which currently stands at 60 army instructors. France said it would add a fifth 50-soldier training team to those it has already planned or deployed.

Afghan units in eastern Afghanistan have recently taken the lead in some operations against the Taliban, with U.S. support. However, NATO commanders estimate it would take five to 10 years before the Afghans could stand alone.

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