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The great jumble sale of troop offers made by Nato countries at the summit in Strasbourg to provide security during the election period in Afghanistan was beginning to unravel over the weekend as military chiefs tried to add up the numbers pledged.
President Barack Obama said he was satisfied that a total of 5,000 troops and trainers had been offered, although he made a point of saying he saw the offers as only a “down payment”, indicating he still wanted pledges of long-term troop deployments, not just temporary units for the election force. But there were no offers of extra permanent troops.
Washington claimed the total of 5,000 extra military personnel that emerged from the final day of the two-day Nato summit consisted of 3,000 combat troops for the election, 1,400-2,000 from 11 countries to be formed into 70 operational mentoring liason teams to train the Afghan National Army and 300 paramilitary mentors and trainers, led by the French, to assist the Afghan National Police. The offers came at the last moment in the summit as a result of what David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, called “the Obama effect”.
The real figure, however, according to initial military assessments, was somewhat lower, because some of the offers were “recycled” from previous announcements. Sources said the contributions from Germany and Italy had been announced weeks ago. Each had agreed to send another battalion of 500-600 to their bases in the north and west of Afghanistan respectively for the election period.
Seventeen out of the 28 Nato members made offers of some sort, either military, civilian or financial. Most involved relatively small numbers of troops or trainers to instruct the Afghan National Army, and Nato’s military planners now have the task of working out whether the promises will live up to expectations, whether they will genuinely fill the capability gaps which have been identified, and when the extra soldiers will be ready to deploy to Afghanistan.