Nato's Afghan tour 'beset by problems'
James Kirkup – The Telegraph April 29, 2008
The Nato mission in Afghanistan is "critically" short of key troops and equipment, Gordon Brown has told allies.
The Daily Telegraph has obtained a confidential Foreign and Commonwealth Office paper which admits to a catalogue of problems and weaknesses in Western attempts to stabilise the country.
On the Nato mission, the paper warns: "Critical military gaps remain to be filled."
The three-page document, which summarises the British view of Afghanistan, was drawn up at Mr Brown's request to be distributed to Western allies.
Britain has 7,800 troops in Afghanistan as part of a 47,000-strong Nato deployment to defeat Taliban-backed insurgents and bolster the elected government. In a list of "critical areas to fill", the paper says Nato still needs three infantry battalions, more helicopters, more aircraft and more training teams to help the Afghan army.
It also raises concerns about the situation after November, when more than 2,300 US Marines are to be withdrawn from the south, where British forces are based.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly tried to persuade allies including France and Germany to bear more of the military burden in Afghanistan, but the paper concedes his efforts are largely failing.
He has also identified policing and justice as vital to the survival of democracy in Afghanistan, but Britain admits in the memo that efforts to train and support the Afghan police are going badly.
Last updated 01/05/2008