KABUL, Afghanistan — The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan is asking for 2,000 more soldiers to join the 140,000-strong international force here, NATO officials said Monday. It was unclear how many would be Americans.
Coalition officials said nearly half will be trainers for the rapidly expanding Afghan security forces and will include troops trained to neutralize roadside bombs that have been responsible for about 60 per cent of the 2,000 allied deaths in the nearly 9-year war.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not supposed to talk about the issue with media, said the NATO-led command had been asking for the troops even before Gen. David Petraeus assumed command here in July.
Petraeus recently renewed that request with the NATO command in Brussels. The alliance has had trouble raising more troops for the war effort, with at least 450 training slots still unfilled after more than a year.
With casualties rising, the war has become deeply unpopular in many of NATO’s 28 member countries, suggesting the additional forces will have to come from the United States. In Europe, polls show the majority of voters consider it an unnecessary drain on finances at a time of sharp cuts in public spending and other austerity measures.
An additional 30,000 U.S. service members have already been sent to Afghanistan as part of a surge aimed at finally suppressing the stubborn Taliban insurgency that has already claimed the lives of more than 1,100 American troops. NATO announced that an American service member was killed Sunday in eastern Afghanistan.
The additional trainers are considered essential to meeting the goal of increasing Afghanistan’s army and police from the present 300,000 members to 400,000 by next year, when the drawdown of international troops is expected to start.