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Europe risks credibility over Afghan troops

EU envoy Francesc Vendrell said Europe will lose its credibility in Afghanistan unless more countries are prepared to send troops there.

india Updated: Jan 13, 2006 20:19 IST

Europe will lose its prestige and credibility in Afghanistan unless more countries are prepared to send troops to dangerous parts of the country, the European Union's special representative warned on Thursday.

Francesc Vendrell was speaking ahead of a debate scheduled for January 25 in the Dutch parliament on whether to commit 1,400 more troops to the volatile south of the country, a highly contentious issue in the Netherlands.

"If the Netherlands found it impossible to send forces to the south, this would be a heavy blow for Europe's prestige in Afghanistan," Vendrell told a news briefing.

He said it would not be a blow for Afghanistan, as US and other forces would fill the void left by a failure from European countries to send more troops.

"But the blow would be to Europe's credibility as Afghans appreciate the role that Europe is playing. They feel that we are there for selfless motives, but there is always the complaint that we are too passive...This perception would be strengthened if the Netherlands found it impossible to send forces to the south."

NATO, which is leading security operations in Afghanistan after the 2001 ouster of the radical Islamic Taliban government, wants to raise its troop numbers there by 6,000 to over 15,000.

Vendrell complained that while the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and others were willing to commit troops, EU countries were failing to accept their responsibilities.

"Australia is going to send forces to a difficult part of the country. One wishes that all EU member states were equally willing to send their forces to areas where security is difficult," he said.

"Occasionally one wonders if some governments think that sending forces to Afghanistan is equivalent to a parade down The Mall or down Les Champs Elysees," he said, referring to avenues in London and Paris.

"The Dutch, together with the British, are the only ones willing to at least consider going to the south ... It would be highly desirable if they do. There is such lack of governance that any military presence.

First Published: Jan 13, 2006 13:32 IST