NATO fails to win new troop commitments

NATO failed on Wednesday to win new force commitments urgently needed for its Afghanistan campaign and indicated it could be several weeks before allies, stretched by international missions in Iraq, the Balkans and now Lebanon, will decide whether to deploy up to 2,500 extra troops that commanders want for the fight against the Taliban.

No formal offers were made at the table," NATO spokesman James Appathurai said after an emergency NATO gathering aimed at finding contributions to an expanded force.

He told a news conference some allies had given "positive indications" on the reinforcements, and suggested extra commitments but said final decisions may have to wait until a Sept. 28-29 meeting of NATO defense ministers in Slovenia.

That delay could mean the extra troops would not deploy early enough to be used against the Taliban before the onset of the Afghan winter, when NATO's top commander, U.S. Gen. James L. Jones, fears the insurgents will slip back to their mountain hideaways to regroup.

European allies are wary of sending more to the battlefields of southern Afghanistan, where the recent fighting has killed more than 30 NATO troops and hundreds of militants.

The array of international missions also place a heavy burden on tight military budgets and some of NATO newer members from eastern Europe may be seeking help with financing before offering contributions, reports AP.

Despite the casualties, Appathurai said NATO was having some success with a 10-day-old offensive to dislodge Taliban fighters dug in around the Zhari and Panjwayi districts of Kandahar province, an area of roughly 130 square kilometers (50 square miles).

"It is not complete yet, but I can tell you that a significant proportion of the objective has now been taken, in fact over two-thirds of the objective has now been taken," he said.