The United States and Britain urged NATO allies on Sunday to provide more troops and equipment to fight insurgents in Afghanistan, with the future of the allied mission there on the line.
"I would be remiss if I did not ask individual countries to examine very closely the forces and other contributions they can provide as ISAF intensifies its efforts in preparation for the elections in August," said the top US commander for southwest Asia, General David Petraeus.
At a major security conference in Germany, Petraeus read off a list of requests for the NATO-led force in Afghanistan, including troops, but also aircraft, medical evacuation facilities, engineers, logistics and trainers.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is battling to spread the influence of the weak Afghan government across the strife-torn country, and trying to foster reconstruction.
But the Taliban, backed by Al-Qaeda, drug lords and criminal gangs, has been waging an increasingly effective insurgency, notably in the south and the east.
Britain, Canada, the Netherlands and the United States have troops on the frontline of that fight, but other allies insist that reconstruction is as important as combat and refuse to redeploy.
British Defence Secretary John Hutton insisted that combat forces were most desperately needed, as only by capturing and holding ground in the hands of the insurgents could the allies ensure that rebuilding can be done.
"Combat forces, that is a most precious contribution right now to that campaign," he said. "We kid ourselves if we imagine that other contributions are as important, right now."
He said that NATO's mission, its most ambitious ever, could be on the line.
"We face a moment of choice. I am frustrated, I think probably all of us are. We are fighting, I think, an existential campaign in Afghanistan," he said.
"What I want from NATO is more of a war-time mentality to rise to the challenge that we face."