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US lawmakers attack NATO allies

US lawmakers have slammed NATO allies for their lack of interest in Afghanistan and asked them to meet their troop commitments.

india Updated: Feb 08, 2007 13:11 IST

Senior United States lawmakers have sharply attacked NATO allies for their lack of interest in Afghanistan and asked them to meet their troop commitments and financial pledges for the war-torn nation.

"We are doing our part. But I don't believe our NATO partners yet are. And I'm concerned about that.

They must meet their troops commitments and lift restrictions that they've placed on the troops that are currently in Afghanistan," Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Ike Skelton said.

"They've committed to some 3,000 more and they haven't delivered on that," Skelton said in his opening remarks at a panel hearing on the Defence Department's Budget for Fiscal 2008 that was presented by the Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

At the House Foreign Affairs Committee, its Chair Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos of California took serious exception to the role of America's allies when it came to the issue of security and economic assistance to Kabul.

"... The time for excuses is over," Lantos said in his opening remarks at a panel hearing during which US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defending the State Department's Fiscal 2008 Budget outlays.

"... I just returned from a fact-finding trip to Iraq and Afghanistan with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other colleagues in the national security leadership of Congress....Our delegation met with President Karzai.

Increased economic assistance for the troubled nation was at the top of his request list, and I know it is on yours, as well," he said.

The Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said if American taxpayers are to be expected to allocate an additional 10 and a half billion dollars to Afghanistan, the oil-rich Arab countries in the Gulf should surely be expected to match the contributions.

"Over the past several years, the Saudis have made more than 300 billion dollars in excess oil profits while Americans paid two and a half or three dollars a gallon at the pump," he said adding the Saudi contribution to Afghan reconstruction and development has been "pathetic, a mere drop in the barrel.

"While their fellow Muslims are struggling to survive in the harsh Afghan winter, the Saudi royal family is content with handing out a few small coins from its change purse.

Madame Secretary, I hope that you will continue to make it abundantly clear to the Gulf nations that their miserly ways must end, and they must end now," the senior Democrat said.

NATO must also re-think its "knee jerk" aversion to playing a major role in Afghanistan.

"Europeans loved NATO when the alliance protected them from the menacing Soviet threat. But their ardor has cooled as NATO is called on to protect Afghanistan from devolving into a narco-terrorist state.

NATO literally has to beg for troops, and the numbers are still too few - approximately 35,000 with almost 14,000 coming from the United States," he said.

Those European troops that are present in the country have largely been deployed to the safest areas, leaving the difficult work, once again, to us, the Brits, the Canadians, the Dutch and the Danes," Lantos remarked.

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Republican from California, also had some stinging observations over the role of America's Middle Eastern allies on Afghanistan, particularly pointing to the role of Saudi Arabia.

"... Yet there's great suffering going on in Afghanistan and they (moderate Muslim nations) have not been stepping up to do their part...

That while Saudi Arabia is spending very little money in Afghanistan, it may well -- or elements within Saudi Arabia be may well be financing terrorist campaign that murders American troops in Iraq" the California Republican maintained.

"... This is of great concern. And I do not believe that this administration has pursued this to the degree that it should—for whatever reason" he added.

"We know there are lots of levels to that debate on how far to push the Saudis. But they are engaged with financing the insurgency operation, the lives of our troops are in the line.

That should be number one: trying to protect them, their interests" the law maker observed.

First Published: Feb 08, 2007 11:38 IST