for-phone-onlyfor-tablet-portrait-upfor-tablet-landscape-upfor-desktop-upfor-wide-desktop-up
Asia Crisis

U.S. urges Dutch, Canada to review Afghan troop plans

* U.S. wants Netherlands, Canada not to withdraw combat troops * Remarks released before London conference on Afghanistan

BRUSSELS, Jan 27 (Reuters) - The United States has urged the Netherlands and Canada to reconsider plans to withdraw combat troops from Afghanistan while NATO is increasing efforts to contain the Taliban insurgency.

The Dutch government must decide by March 1 whether to push ahead with its plan to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, while Canada has said plans to pull its soldiers in 2011.

U.S. ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder said it would be hard to replace Dutch troops in Afghanistan's Uruzgan province and that he believed Canadian troops would still be needed in Kandahar province after their planned withdrawal date.

In remarks released on the eve of an international meeting on Afghanistan in London, he said it was for each country to decide its own plans but underlined that the international effort in Afghanistan had entered a critical period.

"2010 is clearly is the year in which we are either going to turn the corner and move in a fundamentally different direction and succeed or not ... so it is the time of maximum effort," he told reporters.

"This is therefore not the time to start decreasing effort. It is to maintain, if not expand, the effort," he said.

Daalder, who was speaking after a visit to Uruzgan in southern Afghanistan, made his comments last week but they were cleared for release only on Wednesday.

"It's their (the Dutch government's) debate to have and to decide, but I must say going to Uruzgan makes me more convinced than ever that it would be a very profitable ... if the Dutch government were to decide to stay," Daalder said.

He made a similar call on Canada, which plans to withdraw its troops from Kandahar province next year.

"It is very difficult for me to conceive that the situation at the end of 2011 will be such that the Canadian effort will be no longer needed," he said.

Daalder said a revamp of U.S. strategy on Afghanistan calling for the dispatch of 40,000 more international troops, including 30,000 Americans, to fight the Taliban was based on the assumption that troops already in the country would stay.

"The United States did not decide to send 30,000 troops, the vast majority to the south, in order to take over from the Dutch and Canadians," he said. "These were in addition to the effort that already exists, not as a substitute for that effort." (Editing by Jon Hemming)

for-phone-onlyfor-tablet-portrait-upfor-tablet-landscape-upfor-desktop-upfor-wide-desktop-up