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Afghanistan may get 5000 NATO troops

BRUSSELS -- U.S. allies are expected to announce reinforcements of 4,000 to 5,000 troops for Afghanistan once President Barack Obama commits to deploying extra soldiers there, a NATO officer said Friday.

Obama is expected to announce his new Afghan strategy on Tuesday, and order more than 30,000 additional U.S. troops into battle against the emboldened Taliban and Al-Qaeda-led insurgency.

The United States is counting on its allies — more than 40 countries have troops in Afghanistan — and particularly European nations to provide up to 10,000 troops to meet recommendations by the top U.S. and NATO officer there.

European nations "will keep in place at least 1,500 soldiers" that they sent as temporary reinforcements for the elections in August, the officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Some of those countries concerned — Britain, Germany and Spain which combined sent almost 1,000 troops — have pledged to leave them in the country, or compensate for any who are withdrawn, he said.

Washington has also asked Italy to do the same, even if the 400-500 soldiers sent for the August 20 presidential and provincial polls, which were marred by fraud, have begun to leave Afghanistan.

On top of that, European nations are expected to send around 3,000 extra troops, including a contingent of 1,000 Georgians, 500 Britons and 250 personnel from Slovakia. Outside Europe, South Korea is due to send 500 more.

Poland and Spain are thought to be ready to send 200 troops each, with Madrid also providing 50 trainers for the Afghan army and police force.

France has so far insisted it will not send any more troops, but Washington is applying pressure on Paris to come up with some, to help implement the new strategy designed by U.S. General Stanley McChrystal.

"The United States wants Paris to send at least 1,000 extra soldiers," the officer said.

On Thursday, French Defence Minister Herve Morin said: "Today France does not plan to increase its force strength," adding that it was better to "invest more money" there than continually boost military contributions.

France recently sent 150 gendarmes to help train the Afghan police.

NATO foreign ministers meet in Brussels on December 3-4 with Afghanistan topping the agenda, while military officers will meet in southern Belgium on December 7 to rubber stamp the commitments already in the pipeline.

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