MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) - Senator John McCain, a Republican contender for the White House in 2008, chastised Europe on Saturday for failing to supply the troops and money to win in Afghanistan and said NATO's future was at stake.
In tough comments that singled out specific countries, McCain told NATO allies to move beyond the "false debate" over security and development priorities in Afghanistan -- a dispute that dominated a defense ministers' meeting earlier this week.
Instead, Europe should follow Washington's lead and put more forces and resources into the war effort.
"Military recommitment must begin with NATO countries providing an adequate number of troops for the fight," McCain told the Munich Security Conference of senior world politicians, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
"... Yet the international community still falls far short in meeting its prior pledges and in committing the resources Afghanistan needs to avoid failure," he said in prepared remarks.
The senator's comments were more pointed in their criticism of Europe than other public statements from President George W. Bush's administration.
But they reflected growing frustration among some U.S. officials and others in Washington over what is seen as Europe's unwillingness to pay its fair share for involvement in Afghanistan.
Germany and Italy were singled out in McCain's speech. He said Germany must significantly increase police trainers in Afghanistan and Italy, responsible for judicial reform in the country, should raise more funds internationally for reform efforts he said were needed to curb government corruption.
More than five years after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, NATO and U.S. forces face revived Taliban forces vying for control of parts of the country. It is exploiting the porous, undefined border with Pakistan, using the region as a safe haven and recruiting soldiers from refugee camps.
"Failure in Afghanistan risks a reversion to its pre-9/11 role as a sanctuary for al Qaeda terrorists with global reach, a defeat that would embolden Islamic extremists, and the rise of an unencumbered narcostate," McCain said.
"...The future of our alliance is directly at stake ... If NATO does not prevail in Afghanistan, it is difficult to imagine the alliance undertaking another 'hard security' operation -- in or out of area -- and its credibility would suffer a grievous blow."
NATO defense ministers closed a meeting in the Spanish city of Seville on Friday without making major commitments to fill gaps in military capabilities identified by the alliance's top commander, U.S. General Bantz Craddock.
Craddock and U.S. officials stressed the NATO meeting was not meant to secure troop commitments for Afghanistan.
But they also said allies needed to deliver quickly to ensure NATO could launch an effective early year offensive against the Taliban.