October 25, 2007 / 9:23 PM / 12 years ago

Gates asks European armies to push politicians on NATO

By Kristin Roberts

RAMSTEIN, Germany, Oct 25 (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday asked Europe’s generals to press their political leaders to lift restrictions that stop commanders from sending troops into the most violent areas of Afghanistan.

Gates, disappointed by allies’ failure this week to commit more resources or ease restrictions on the use of their troops, said progress in Afghanistan was fragile and could be lost.

"Simply stated, there are those members who fulfil their commitments, and those who do not," Gates said, sharply critical of many alliance members following a NATO meeting in the Netherlands.

"Many allies are unwilling to share the risks, commit the resources, and follow through on collective commitments to this mission and to each other. As a result, we risk allowing what has been achieved in Afghanistan to slip away," he said in a speech to an annual gathering of European military officers, the Conference of European Armies, in Germany.

He took aim at caveats, the restrictions that some governments place on the use of their troops in the war zone.

The caveats are classified, but a senior U.S. defence official said they total 62. Some restrict the use of troops in combat and in the most violent areas of the country.

"As you know better than most people, brothers in arms achieve victory only when all march in step toward the sound of the guns," Gates told the European military officers.

"To that end, I’m asking for your help to make caveats in NATO operations, wherever they are, as benign as possible, and better yet, to convince your national leaders to lift restrictions on field commanders that impede their ability to succeed in critical missions."

In the Netherlands, Gates urged NATO defence ministers to send more troops, trainers and equipment to Afghanistan.

Some allies, such as France, said they would send more trainers for Afghan security forces. But there were no promises of more combat troops or equipment.



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