NATO committed to Afghan role


Mar 28, 2006
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Published: 30/11/2006 12:00 AM (UAE)

US President George W. Bush attends the Nato summit with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten in Riga, Latvia.

Nato committed to Afghan role

Riga: Nato pledged yesterday to stay in Afghanistan for the long haul to restore peace and stability there.

Alliance leaders also reversed policy on Serbia and Bosnia by offering them a first step towards Nato membership.

"We are committed to an enduring role to support the Afghan authorities, in cooperation with other international actors," the 26 leaders of the military alliance declared in a joint statement after talks in the Latvian capital Riga.

"There is a complete acceptance around the table that Nato's credibility is indeed on the line," said British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose troops are bearing the brunt of the violence in southern Afghanistan alongside Canadian and Dutch soldiers.

US President George W. Bush said success in Afghanistan could come only if members accepted "difficult assignments" and alliance commanders say the mission has been hobbled by limits many nations have placed on how their forces are deployed.

Canada said it had pledged a further 1,000 troops and Blair's official spokesman said Bulgaria, Spain and Nato aspirant Macedonia had stepped forward to offer more forces, while several other nations had lifted or eased restrictions.

It is clear that a split has developed over deployment. Many major nations, including France, Germany and Italy said their troops could only be moved to Afghanistan's more perilous regions in emergencies. French officials said France could "on a case-by-case basis and on request" send troops outside their zone.

Nato, however, declared its elite new rapid-response force fully operational, giving European allies a means of responding quickly to terror threats, failed states or regional conflicts around the world.

A summit-ending communique confirmed that the Nato Response Force - which Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer described as "a cutting-edge air, land and sea expeditionary force" - was fully operational and ready for a full range of missions.

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