WASHINGTON — NATO forces so far have supplied only about 10 percent of the trainers promised for new efforts in Afghanistan, a situation a senior Democratic senator called “totally unacceptable” in light of new U.S. commitments there.

Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said several thousand more U.S. troops may be needed to fill that gap unless a solution can be found.

Levin, of Michigan, highlighted the shortfall during a press briefing Monday, calling it the most frustrating discovery of his recent trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Overall only about 1,574 trainers — mostly American — of the planned 4,200-person training force are in place, leaving the effort nearly two-thirds short.

“There is no excuse why NATO can’t do better,” he said. “These are folks who do initial training. ... These people are not putting their lives on the line, these are not combat troops.”

On Thursday, NATO leaders are scheduled to meet in London for a conference on Afghanistan, covering topics like troop commitments and international aid for the Afghan government. Several countries are expected to announce new troops deployments then, though Levin admits there is no way to compel them to follow through.

“I’ve always believed that training the afghan army is the No. 1 issue,” he said. “If we can’t persuade NATO to do what they promised, then we’ll have no alternative but to use American forces to fill in that gap.

“But I would hate for that message to go out to NATO, because I think the future of NATO is dependent ... on whether or not the members of NATO carry out their commitments.”

Levin said he is optimistic about fixing the issue in the near future, noting that several administration officials have told him that NATO allies are aware of the problem and rushing to get those trainers in place.

Overall, he said his visit to Afghanistan was encouraging, with indications that international forces are more closely partnering with afghan army and police units.

Currently about 80 percent of the country’s 328 security units receive planning and operational support, and that number is expected to rise to nearly 95 percent over the coming years.

Levin had opposed plans to increase the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan before President Barack Obama’s announcement in November that 30,000 more troops would be sent into the country.

However, Levin has publicly backed the plan recently, saying the emphasis on training and equipping Afghan troops gives the United States its best option for finding an end to the conflict there.

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