(dpa) - The United States cannot increase troop levels in Afghanistan because of the burden placed on the military by the conflict in Iraq, the Pentagon's top military officer acknowledged Wednesday.
"What immediately comes to mind is additional forces for Afghanistan," Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said when asked to identify how Iraq has limited the military's capability in other areas of the world.
"I've said that Afghanistan is an economy-of-force campaign. And there are force requirements there that we can't currently meet," Mullen said. "So having forces in Iraq don't - at the level they're at - don't allow us to fill the need that we have in Afghanistan."
Mullen's comments came as US President George W Bush was in Bucharest, urging NATO allies to play a greater role in Afghanistan by deploying more forces. Mullen said the alliance needs more trainers for the Afghan army.
About 3,500 US Marines recently arrived in Afghanistan for a seven-month deployment, bringing the US contingency to nearly 30,000 - about half of them under NATO's command. The total size of NATO forces remains below the number requested by battlefield commanders.
The reluctance by some NATO partners has frustrated Washington and other countries who have authorized their forces to join the fight against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. France and Germany combined have deployed about 5,000 soldiers, who are restricted to peacekeeping missions in relatively safe areas.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said that he will increase French forces by several hundred troops, and Poland has pledged to redeploy forces from Iraq to Afghanistan. Germany has not ruled out sending more troops.
Bush ordered 30,000 additional forces to Iraq last year to quell rising sectarian violence, expanding the US presence to 160,000.