http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20061129/ts_ ... _summit_dcBy Paul Taylor and David Clarke 1 hour, 3 minutes ago
RIGA (Reuters) -
NATO pledged on Wednesday to stay in
Afghanistan for the long haul to restore peace and stability there, after a summit where nations offered some concessions to improve the mobility of troops battling Taliban insurgents.
Alliance leaders also reversed policy on Serbia and Bosnia by offering them a first step toward NATO membership, despite concerns over war criminals still at large, and said other Balkan nations could expect entry invitations in 2008.
"We are committed to an enduring role to support the Afghan authorities, in cooperation with other international actors," the 26 leaders of the military alliance declared in a joint statement after talks in the Latvian capital Riga.
"Contributing to peace and stability in Afghanistan is NATO's key priority," they added of the mission that has launched NATO into the most dangerous ground combat in its 57-year history.
"There is a complete acceptance around the table that NATO's credibility is indeed on the line," said British Prime Minister
Tony Blair, whose troops are bearing the brunt of the violence in southern Afghanistan alongside Canadian and Dutch soldiers.
President Bush said success in Afghanistan could come only if members accepted "difficult assignments" and alliance commanders say the mission has been hobbled by limits many nations have placed on how their forces are deployed.
Canada said it had pledged a further 1,000 troops and Blair's official spokesman said Bulgaria, Spain and NATO aspirant Macedonia had stepped forward to offer more forces, while several other nations had lifted or eased restrictions.
But many major nations, including France, Germany and Italy said their troops could only be moved to Afghanistan's more perilous regions in emergencies.
French officials said France could "on a case-by-case basis and on request" send troops outside their zone.
"REWARD FOR NON-COMPLIANCE"
NATO leaders called for improvements in the often haphazard coordination with other international players in Afghanistan such as the
United Nations, the
World Bank and the
European Union, and backed a French idea for an Afghan "contact group."
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will explore the idea of a steering group like the committee of nations that has coordinated diplomacy in the Balkans for more than a decade.
Some U.S. officials had voiced private misgivings about the idea because it might give Afghanistan's neighbor
Iran, with which Washington has no ties, a seat at the table.
While Afghanistan dominated the summit, leaders launched partnership ties with Serbia and Bosnia after the United States, Britain and the Netherlands dropped a demand that they first show full cooperation with the Hague war crimes court.
Together with Montenegro they were invited to join NATO's "Partnership for Peace" program, with the proviso they try to capture top war crimes indictees from the 1992-95 Bosnian war, including Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic.
Asked how the alliance could issue the invitation to Serbia only days after its officials were still making downbeat assessments of Belgrade's cooperation, de Hoop Scheffer denied the alliance had gone soft.
"We'll keep up the pressure," he said, saying Bosnia and Serbia, which is due to hold elections in January, would both be closely monitored.
But chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte attacked the NATO decision as a reward for non-compliance.
"The prosecutor is very surprised by the decision. She regrets that it was made, that NATO changed its position because it looks like a reward for not fully cooperating with the prosecutor," her spokesman said in
NATO as expected confirmed intentions to issue invitations to some candidate countries to join at its next summit in 2008, a signal aimed at current aspirants Croatia, seen as best prepared, Macedonia and Albania.
As part of the alliance's efforts to revamp itself from Cold War monolith to a more fleet-of-foot global security provider, NATO leaders also declared a long-awaited 25,000-strong rapid reaction force fully operational.
The declaration, originally due in October, followed last-minute troop and equipment offers from Turkey, the United States, France, Spain and Germany, a military source said.
(Additional reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis, Caren Bohan, Elizabeth Pineau, Francesca Piscioneri and Marcin Grajewski)
Good news. I think this needs ending. Some nations are still reluctant to get too deep into this (don't blame them) but any help is better then none. This needs ending as fast as possible it's another shambles in my opinion. Something written by a guy with a suit and tie using a power point presentation detailing the war on "terra".
Truth is.. How many troops and nations involvement does it take to topple the Taliban?
I hope one day we can see that