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NATO commander asks member nations to drop troop limits

WASHINGTON — NATO’s top commander is asking member nations to drop restrictions on how their troops can be used in Afghanistan, saying it significantly limits the scope of military operations there.

U.S. Gen. James Jones, who also heads up the U.S. European Command, said he has sent a letter outlining the numerous problematic restrictions to the defense chiefs of the coalition’s 26 member countries, and will meet in Brussels next week to discuss the issue.

“It’s not enough to simply provide forces if those forces have restrictions on them that limit them from being effective,” he said Tuesday in a Washington news briefing.

“They limit the on-scene commanders from having the capability and maneuverability that they need.”

He said territorial restrictions — for example, Turkish troops are only allowed to operate around Kabul — are just as problematic as rules governing combat participation by troops. In total, the multinational troops in Afghanistan combined have 102 restrictions leveled by their home nations, 50 of which Jones called “operationally significant.”

He compared the situation to NATO’s involvement in Kosovo, where at the start of military operations “commanders spent more time deciding what they couldn’t do with their forces rather than what we could do.”

“We’re not quite that bad in Afghanistan, but we need to do better,” he said.

“Removing caveats is like providing more troops, a force multiplier. The more freedom you give, the better it is.”

Jones said he sees a connection between some countries’ reluctance to participate fully in Afghanistan and the failure of anti-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan.

Last week, a United Nations report stated opium production in the country so far this year was up 59 percent from 2005, and the total land used for harvesting the drug had more than doubled since 2000.

“(The British) have the lead in counternarcotics reform, but that doesn’t mean it’s a U.K. problem only,” he said.

“I have this sense that many nations have kind of devolved to that position — ‘Well, this is the United Kingdom’s problem’ — and other nations need to step up.”

According to USA Today, earlier this month House International Relations Committee chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., sent a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asking for the military to kill or capture drug kingpins in Afghanistan, saying current State Department efforts which target individual farmers are clearly not succeeding.


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