NATO lacks troops to guarantee Afghan peace -report

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BRUSSELS, Sep 14 (Reuters) The NATO force in Afghanistan does not have enough troops or equipment to secure advances made against Taliban insurgents and to guarantee a successful end to its mission, a lawmakers' report concluded today.

The findings of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, which draws legislators from 42 countries, echoes recent complaints by NATO commanders that troop shortages are hampering operations and come as some allies face domestic pressure to pull troops out.

''The NATO mission still suffers from a lack of personnel and assets,'' the assembly's Defence and Security Committee concluded after a six-day tour of allied operations last week which included talks with local and national Afghan officials.

''Fundamentally, the delegation came away with a sense that current efforts are making significant incremental progress, but not at a rate that will ensure without doubt an acceptable end state to our mission there,'' it concluded.

The report did not recommend how many reinforcements were needed on top of the 50,000 troops currently under NATO and US command. The most pressing needs included more helicopters, intelligence and reconnaissance assets and trainers to build up the Afghan security forces, it said.

NATO commanders say they have had success in wresting towns from the Taliban and handing them back to government control, only to watch them be re-taken by insurgents because of the weakness of local Afghan army or police forces.

NATO wants to accelerate efforts to train up the Afghan army but is facing resistance from many allies who refuse to send either troops or trainers into the southern heartlands of the Taliban where most fighting takes place.

''Consolidation means being able to ensure that the insurgents do not return,'' NATO Parliamentary Assembly Secretary-General Simon Lunn told Reuters.

'''More' in this case would imply more boots on the ground, more trainers and more enablers,'' he said, using the military term for helicopters and other vital operational equipment.

Top soldiers including US General Dan McNeill, commander of the NATO-led force in Afghanistan, and General Ray Henault, the Canadian who heads up NATO's Military Committee in Brussels, have in recent days complained of troop shortfalls.

But they have stopped short of making specific calls for more troops at a time when key allies such as Canada and the Netherlands -- both in the south -- face tough decisions about extending their missions in the face of domestic opposition.

The NATO Parliamentary Assembly draws its members from the 26 NATO allies and 16 other countries. Its aims range from making the alliance more accountable to fostering dialogue on security issues.

Reuters RAR DB2115

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