NATO behind McChrystal Afghan plan

WASHINGTON — Top NATO officials suggested Friday that they support Afghanistan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal's call for a bigger counterinsurgency strategy in that war, but said they may send more troops only after they know how the administration intends to proceed there.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates traveled to Bratislava, Slovakia, to meet with the defense ministers of 28 NATO nations, which provide troops and economic aid to Afghanistan.

There, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said there was "broad support" for the strategy outlined by McChrystal to the Obama administration in September. But NATO stopped short of committing more forces. McChrystal has called for as many as 80,000 additional troops.

"There were a number of allies who indicated they were thinking about, or were moving toward, increasing either their military or their civilian contributions, or both, and I found that very heartening," Gates said.

Rasmussen said that NATO wants to hear the Obama administration's new Afghan strategy, which officials are to announce next month. Gates is expected to give his recommendations to the president in the next day or two.

Since August, the administration has been locked in a protracted debate about Afghanistan as a series of troubling events has unfolded.

A resurgent Taliban has taken over more parts of that country. In August, the re-election of U.S.-backed incumbent President Hamid Karzai was marred by vote-rigging. Afghans and Americans alike increasingly see Karzai's government as corrupt and incompetent.

This week, after a U.N.-backed election fraud commission voided hundreds of thousands of votes, a runoff election was set between Karzai and his closest challenger, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah.

At Friday's meeting, Gates sought to reassure NATO that the United States is committed to Afghanistan, even as it debates its strategy there.