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More troops needed in Afghanistan: NATO

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said their mission will only succeed if it can improve ordinary people's lives in Afghanistan.

india Updated: Oct 19, 2006 16:02 IST
Associated Press
Associated Press

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on Thursday that additional NATO forces are needed in Afghanistan from member states, and that the NATO mission will only succeed if it can help the Afghan government and improve ordinary people's lives.

De Hoop Scheffer was asked on BBC radio about a suicide bomb attack on a vehicle of a British aid group in southern Afghanistan on Thursday that reportedly killed one civilian and wounded four.

"It does bring home that the Taliban and the other spoilers of the process of nation-building and democracy in Afghanistan are having to go with these kinds of horrible tactics -- improvised explosive devices, suicide bombers and so on -- because they know they can't beat NATO in other ways," he said.

"I can assure you they will not beat NATO, neither the UK nor other forces, by employing these tactics."

De Hoop Scheffer played down the recent prediction by Lt Gen David Richards, the British commander of NATO's forces in Afghanistan, that this winter could see a "tipping point" with local people switching their allegiance to the Taliban.

"I think that we should be a bit careful to impose deadlines on ourselves," the NATO chief said.

"But I agree with Gen. Richards that it is of great importance to win the battle for hearts and minds. He is right when he says that a number of people in Afghanistan are sitting on the fence and looking how things will further develop."

De Hoop Scheffer said NATO must help the Afghan government deliver improvements to ordinary people's lives, including jobs, infrastructure and alternative livelihoods for poppy farmers.

"If people think that there is a military solution, they are wrong," he said.

De Hoop Scheffer was making a speech in London later on Thursday about the situation in Afghanistan amid continuing NATO appeals for additional troops from member states.

He welcomed recent pledges of troops from Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Denmark and Canada. But he acknowledged that there was "competition for forces" because of multinational deployments in Iraq, Congo and Lebanon.

"I am not completely satisfied, because we always can do better if we have more forces, but since the call went out ... we have seen a lot of nations stepping up to the plate.

We are not entirely there yet," the NATO chief said. "If we fail, then Afghanistan will come to us. It will be a breeding ground for terrorists again.

First Published: Oct 19, 2006 15:02 IST