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Asia Crisis

U.S. to press NATO for more troops for Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Jan 29 (Reuters) - The Pentagon said on Tuesday it will press NATO's European members to send more troops to Afghanistan's violent south in response to a call from Canada for reinforcements, but Washington will not boost its force there.

"We've got a number of allies with us there, a number of allies providing forces. Hopefully they can see to it to dig deeper and find additional forces to help this effort," said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday threatened to pull Canada's 2,500 troops out of Afghanistan early next year unless NATO sends reinforcements, signaling Ottawa has lost patience with what it sees as foot-dragging by allies.

That followed recommendations from an independent panel that last week urged Canada to end its mission in Kandahar unless NATO provided an additional 1,000 troops.

U.S. defense officials too have regularly complained about the unwillingness of European allies to dedicate more combat troops and equipment to Afghanistan, where Taliban violence has steadily climbed for more than two years.

The United States has 29,000 troops in Afghanistan and earlier this month said it would add 3,200 Marines to that war zone. Morrell said 2,200 of those would be sent to Afghanistan's violent south, which includes Kandahar.

"That's as much and as deep as we're going at this point," Morrell said.

Asked if the Pentagon was considering an additional deployment following Canada's call, Morrell said, "No."

"We've done, as I made clear, what we can do," he said.

Half of the U.S. troops are part of a 40,000-strong NATO force. (Reporting by Kristin Roberts; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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