NATO members add more troops for Afghanistan
September 21, 2006
ARLINGTON, Va. — Nearly two weeks after NATO’s top commander asked for additional troops to bolster operations against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, alliance members have offered close to the additional 2,000 to 2,500 personnel to fill out the mission roster.
“Numerically, we are in the ballpark,” U.S. Marine Gen. James L. Jones, NATO’s supreme allied commander, told Pentagon reporters Wednesday.
On Sept. 7, Jones asked NATO allies to send all of the troops and equipment they had originally pledged to southern Afghanistan for “Operation Medusa,” a head-to-head fight with a resurgent Taliban that Jones said had “surprisingly” abandoned its hit-and-run tactics for a change.
With only about 85 percent of the assets agreed to by NATO nations actually delivered, Jones met in Warsaw, Poland, with NATO military leaders to formally request the remaining assets on Sept. 8-9.
Jones said he was seeking a squadron of armed helicopters; two or three C-130s; intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance equipment; and a tactical theater reserve force of “roughly battalion size.”
On Wednesday, Jones said that Romania, Poland, the U.K., and Canada, along with countries he could not name, had stepped up to the plate.
“We still want some [attack] helicopters, we still want some more mobility” in the form of fixed-wing aircraft, Jones said, “but we’re close to 100 percent” of the original request in terms of troops, he said.
Jones said there was a delay between the time he asked for the forces and the time they were anted up because “countries needed more time to get parliamentary approval to make the offer.”
Overall, “this has been the best force-generation [effort] I’ve ever seen,” Jones said. “The fact that we’re near 100 percent is remarkable.”
But before the alliance could muster the additional forces, Operation Medusa came to an abrupt end: On Sept. 15, the Taliban’s spokesman in Afghanistan issued a statement to Islamic press outlets that said fighters had made a “strategic retreat” in southern Afghanistan.
“It was not a decision that was theirs alone, I assure you,” Jones said. “It was encouraged highly” by the NATO forces on the ground.
Despite the retreat, “I don’t think they’ve been totally defeated,” Jones said of the Taliban.
“We will continue to see them where there is less [central government and NATO] strength,” particularly in western Afghanistan, as well as “continuing to use their asymmetric tactics,” like attacking civilians, he said.
NATO troops will continue to push to find the remnants of the Taliban who left the battlefield in southern Afghanistan, which was an area about 35 miles west of Kandahar called the “Pashmul Pocket,” Jones said.
The goal is “to get them before [they fight] another full-scale battle,” Jones said.