KABUL — Europe may send 5,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan, Britain's prime minister said Friday — affirming support for the NATO mission as the Obama administration nears a decision on increasing American troop levels.
The announcement came as the Taliban struck again in the capital. A suicide car bomber blasted a U.S. convoy near an American military base in Kabul, injuring nine American soldiers and 10 contract security guards. Three Afghans were killed in the attack — the biggest in Kabul in the past two weeks.
Brown said the NATO strategy must be to encourage a greater role for Afghan forces so that international troops "can start coming home."
His remarks were made a day after he met with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The NATO chief said that other allied nations have privately pledged more help, but Rasmussen stopped short of saying that countries would send more troops.
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"We need our other NATO allies to help," Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the BBC in a London interview.
He said he has been contacting governments inside and outside the 45-member NATO-led coalition, asking them to send more soldiers to train and mentor Afghan forces so they can take responsibility for security in their own country. He estimated as many as 5,000 troops could be raised from that effort.
Brown has already agreed to send 500 more soldiers to Britain's 9,000-member force in Afghanistan, despite declining support for the war among the British public.
His assurances that other countries would boost their own troop numbers appeared to be an attempt to show the British public that others are willing to assume a heavier burden in Afghanistan, despite public unease over rising casualties and an Afghan government perceived as corrupt and resistant to reform.