EE.UU. quiere que la OTAN conduzca operaciones en Afganistán

By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer
18 minutes ago
BERLIN – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday he hopes NATO will eventually be able to take over counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan currently being handled by coalition forces, allowing the United States to reduce its forces there. But he acknowledged it will be a difficult task and did not suggest a timetable.
Speaking to reporters as he prepared to attend a meeting of NATO defense ministers, Rumsfeld said NATO’s move to take on a larger role in Afghanistan — including drug interdiction — will be a key topic of discussion.
«Over time it would be nice if NATO would develop counterterrorist capabilities which don’t exist at the current time,» he said. «That probably will be the last piece they take.»
He declined to comment, however, on comments made by some Social Democratic leaders in Germany who said they would oppose merging NATO’s peacekeeping mission with the combat operations. German elections are this weekend, and he said he did not want to wade into German election politics.
Rumsfeld also said he will urge his defense counterparts to find ways to increase both the military flexibility and the common funding for NATO.
A problem, though, is that a number of countries put various limits on the military activity, such as limits on where they can go or what type of combat force they can use.
Rumsfeld declined to single out countries with restrictions that posed problems for the NATO forces. But he said there are 17 pages of various constitutional, statutory and other edicts that limit where troops can go and what they can do, including whether they can perform only humanitarian functions, or if they can fire without first being fired upon.
«Different restrictions on national forces makes it enormously difficult for commanders to have the flexibility to function,» said Rumsfeld.
In addition, he said an increase in funding reserves is needed because some of the smaller countries have lower defense budgets or must plan their spending so far in advance that it makes it difficult for them to respond quickly to changing military needs.
Rumsfeld said he hopes that changes in the structure of NATO will eventually allow the alliance to reduce some of its forces in Kosovo.
NATO has 11,000 mostly European troops providing security in northern and western Afghanistan, while around 19,000 U.S.-led troops cover the south and east.
Plans are for NATO to slowly expand its peacekeeping role, and eventually take primary responsibility for security in the country. Thirty-five countries have troops in Afghanistan, including a number of non-NATO nations.
Rumsfeld plans to meet privately with several of his colleagues over the next two days, including Britain’s defense minister, John Reid.
Afghanistan’s elections come four years after the U.S. invaded the country to overthrow the Taliban. Insurgents, however, have vowed to disrupt the balloting.
Under the NATO plan, German troops will take the lead role in the north, Italians in the west, British in the south and Americans under NATO command in the east. French and Turkish troops will lead in Kabul — working alongside Afghanistan’s fledgling army and police.

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