500 Down, 9500 to Go
Reports are that at this week’s meeting of NATO foreign ministers, the Obama administration will press for the allies to contribute 10,000 additional troops to match the 30,000 or so American soldiers whose deployment President Obama is expected to announce on Tuesday evening. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the NATO secretary-general, has indicated on his Facebook page that he intends to whip the European allies to ante up. But British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has already announced a plus-up of his own. From a speech Brown made to the British House of Commons today:
I made clear that we would increase the number of British personnel in Afghanistan only if we were assured that it would continue to be the case that every soldier and unit deployed is fully equipped for the operations they are asked to undertake. At this morning’s meeting of the Afghanistan and Pakistan national security committee, the Chief of the Defence Staff gave that assurance – that this condition has been met both for the existing force and the additional 500 troops.
A lot is made in the U.S. about NATO’s seemingly paltry contributions in Afghanistan. But very often there’s little perspective provided about the Europeans’ actual military capabilities. The active-duty British Army is nowhere near the size of its U.S. counterpart, numbering only about 98,000 soldiers. The active-duty U.S. Army, by contrast, comprises more than half a million. With Brown’s new deployment, this means over a tenth of the entire British Army will be deployed in Afghanistan.
So: who’s next?