WASHINGTON — The chances of western European allies increasing their military presence in Iraq is “a long shot,” the leader of U.S. European Command told Congress.

“In discussions with chiefs of defense for [European] countries, I don’t hear any appetite or any discussion of getting more involved,” said Army Gen. Bantz Craddock, who also serves as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. “On the contrary, the discussions are often how they can be more involved in Afghanistan, often at the expense of Iraq.”

Craddock’s comments came after Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee asked about the possibility of getting those allies more involved in the fight in Iraq.

Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., said he believes the success U.S. and NATO forces in Bosnia in the late 1990s was directly tied to the international cooperation, and the widespread commitment to dealing with that issue.

But Craddock said too many military forces are underfunded and too many governments are “risk adverse” to commit the same way to the Iraq conflict.

“It may well be an improving type of military success in Iraq could entice that same thought,” he said. “But right now, I don’t see that trend being reversed anytime soon.”

Air Force Gen. Lance Smith, commander of U.S. Forces Joint Command, said politics further aggravates the issue.

“The worry I hear the most is that it lacks public support, and they fear for their government positions,” he said.

Craddock did praise former Soviet bloc countries for their willingness to contribute to both Iraq and Afghanistan, saying they are anxious to “spread the freedom” that they have only recently experienced. But he also noted that those are militaries poorly funded, and not as well trained or equipped as their wealthier western neighbors.

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