March 13, 2008 / 8:43 PM / 11 years ago

U.S. urges NATO allies to back 5-year Afghan plan

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The United States is urging NATO allies at a summit next month to sign up to a five-year plan stepping up efforts to end the insurgency in Afghanistan, according to a document obtained by Reuters.

A Canadian soldier keeps watch at scene of a suicide bomb attack in Kandahar, Afghanistan, March 12, 2008. REUTERS/Ismail Sameem

Under the plan, alliance members would commit to plug troop shortfalls and supply enough well-trained and flexible forces to combat insurgents, while providing the support, training and equipment needed by Afghanistan’s own security forces.

The U.S. proposals also set out benchmarks for measuring success, such as the ability of Afghanistan to hold elections undisrupted by violence, and to field a trained army of 70,000 troops and a professionalized 82,000-strong police force.

While they do not explicitly refer to the refusal of allies such as Germany to send troops to the thick of the fighting in south Afghanistan, the proposals call on allies to acknowledge a need to “share the burden” of the battle.

The Afghan mission is the toughest ground war faced by the 59-year-old alliance and has led to open differences among allies over tactics and troop levels of its 43,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

The proposed U.S. plan is part of an input paper for a “strategic vision statement” to be unveiled at an April 2-4 summit in Bucharest affirming NATO’s long-term commitment to defeating the Taliban-led insurgency.

Alliance diplomats in Brussels are currently drafting the statement and say the final version is far from finished. The U.S. paper is dated February3 but a source familiar with the U.S. position said it still closely represented U.S. thinking.

The paper calls on NATO partners to commit to develop a five-year security plan but offers no target date for an actual exit of NATO troops, instead saying peace could take time.

“ISAF and the international community must agree to make a long-term commitment to Afghanistan,” the paper says.

“Success in Afghanistan is nothing less than a test of our solidarity and commitment to each other and to our values ... Failure would show that the will of the NATO allies is one of short-duration, close-to-home and non-risky engagements.”

It calls on NATO allies to work with other agencies to ensure each Afghan province has its own Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) — reconstruction units complete with military back-up — for as long as needed.

It further urges allies to support Afghan efforts to combat the huge narcotics trade, “including through interdiction, eradication, alternative livelihood and other programs”.

Writing by Mark John

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