During a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, Mr. Bush emphasized the need for continued efforts in Afghanistan against resurgent Taliban and al-Qaida militants, citing 2006 as the most violent year in the country since the U.S. invasion.
“When our commanders on the ground say to our respective countries, ‘We need additional help,’ our NATO countries must provide it,” the president said. “For NATO to succeed, allies must make sure that we fill the security gaps.”
President Bush is asking Congress for $11.8 billion over the next two years to help Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government maintain control of Afghanistan. The plan includes increasing Afghanistan’s security forces by doubling the size of its army.
There are about 27,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and an additional 3,200 troops will be deployed to collaborate with NATO forces on a spring offensive, Mr. Bush said.
An increase in violence by Taliban fighters is expected in the spring when the snow melts.
At a NATO meeting last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates received a lukewarm response to his plea for European countries to send more troops and equipment to Afghanistan.
NATO’s top commander Gen. John Craddock warned Wednesday that failure to send reinforcements was weakening the mission in Afghanistan.
“We do not have adequate forces,” Craddock said. “It places every NATO soldier there at greater risk.”
Tensions have been building between allies over imbalances in the way NATO troops from different countries are being used in Afghanistan. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-Calif., said some countries are not doing their part.
“It is simply unacceptable that NATO commanders are left to beg for troops from countries like Germany, France, Italy, and Spain,” he said. “It is an outrage that only troops from the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark and the United Kingdom are deployed to the most hazardous spots.”