Gates criticises NATO over Afghan commitment

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KIEV, Oct 22 (Reuters) US Defense Secretary Robert Gates today criticised NATO for failing to send enough troops and other resources to Afghanistan, setting the stage for tense alliance discussions later this week.

''I am not satisfied that an alliance whose members have over two million soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen cannot find the modest additional resources that have been committed for Afghanistan,'' Gates said.

The Pentagon chief has repeatedly complained that NATO members have failed to deliver on promises made to Afghanistan more than a year ago.

While he has said he is especially worried about a shortage of more than 3,000 trainers for the Afghan security forces, commanders also need more combat troops, helicopters and other equipment.

Gates, after meeting a grouping of Eastern European defence ministers, told reporters he would press NATO allies on Afghanistan commitments during an alliance meeting in the Netherlands on Wednesday and Thursday.

''This will clearly be a principal theme of the NATO defence ministers meeting,'' he said.

Gates is considering withdrawing U.S. forces from Kosovo if Europe does not boost military support to Afghanistan, according to his spokesman. He has ordered that the 1,600 U.S. troops in Kosovo remain until summer 2008, but then will reconsider the deployment based on Europe's progress in fulfilling its promises in Afghanistan.

He also asked members of the Southeastern Europe Defence Ministerial - a group of Eastern European countries - to send troops and other resources to Afghanistan. Slovakia last week agreed to increase its troop presence to more than 125 in 2008.

Gates said other countries had also promised to send more soldiers to there, but were not ready to announce their commitments publicly.

REUTERS SG BD1814

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