Afghan war unpopular: Holbrooke
* US special envoy predicts NATO would send more forces to Afghanistan
BRUSSELS: US Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard C Holbrooke acknowledged on Thursday that the war in Afghanistan was unpopular given “the legacy of Iraq and Vietnam”, but predicted that NATO allies would soon contribute more forces to join the 30,000 additional US troops being deployed there.
“We have been very gratified by the strong support of our European allies for President Barack Obama’s policy,” Holbrooke told journalists while speaking before a two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers that opens later on Thursday.
Obama’s new plan for the war in Afghanistan calls for the dispatch of 30,000 more troops, but includes assurances that some of them would begin withdrawing in July 2011.
On Thursday, NATO spokesman James Appathurai said pledges from the alliance had already exceeded 5,000 troops. More than 20 nations are expected to make firm commitments at a force-generation conference on Monday, and following the international conference on Afghanistan in January.
However, European countries have been reluctant to add large numbers of soldiers to a war that often looks ‘unwinnable’, and to support an Afghan government tainted by corruption and election fraud. Some leaders are waiting for an international conference on Afghanistan in London next month before promising any more troops.
“I understand that the war is unpopular. It’s a long way off, and there’s the legacy of Iraq and Vietnam,” Holbrooke said. “Our core objectives in Afghanistan have not changed, but resources to achieve them have been increased,” he said, adding that success would depend on close cooperation between all 43 troop-contributing nations and countries such as Japan, which provide development aid to the government in Kabul. ap