The United States will appeal to NATO allies on Thursday to send more troops to fight Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, despite the prospect of spending cuts because of the global financial crisis, reported Reuters.
Defense ministers of the 26-nation alliance hold a two-day meeting in Budapest against a backdrop of a rise in violence in Afghanistan even though there has been a big increase in the size of the NATO-led international force in the past two years.
Commanders of the 50,700-strong force are seeking up to 12,000 more troops, but Washington's European allies have been reluctant to commit additional numbers.
NATO is also seeking to plug shortfalls in equipment such as helicopters and to resolve differences among member countries over U.S. calls for a more aggressive fight against the drugs trade that fuels the Taliban insurgency.
On Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet agreed to allow for a boosting of German troop numbers in Afghanistan by 1,000 to up to 4,500. But Berlin has resisted Washington's calls to station troops in the insurgent-troubled south.
Washington has urged countries in southeastern Europe, including aspiring NATO members, to send more troops.
The United States plans to increase its troop strength in Afghanistan from the present 33,000, which include 13,000 under NATO command, but U.S. officials are concerned allies will see this as an excuse not to meet pledges.
"I want to make sure that everybody understands that the increases in U.S. forces are not seen as replacements for NATO contributions. They're reinforcement," U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters traveling with him to Budapest.