U.S. to allies: Fight in Afghanistan or write check

Mon Oct 6, 2008 8:02am EDT
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By Kristin Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has asked Japan and NATO allies who have refused to send troops to Afghanistan to pay the estimated $17 billion needed to build up the Afghan army, according to U.S. defense officials.

The push to quickly increase the size of Afghanistan's army and spread the cost of the initiative underscores the financial and military strain the war has placed on the United States and NATO members, many also operating in Iraq and elsewhere.

"The faster we get the (Afghan army) to the size and strength they need to be, the less they depend on us for providing security, and God knows we operate far more expensively than the Afghan national security forces do," said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.

"At a minimum it's going to cost $17 billion. That's a hefty price-tag and someone's got to pay it," Morrell said.

"This may be one of those cases where countries that have had a reluctance to contribute forces, in particular combat forces, may be able to take part in this mission through a financial contribution to the development of the Afghan National Army."

The new Pentagon push to share costs more widely reflects a realization among U.S. officials that some allies simply will not put troops into the war despite heavy pressure from Washington - something Europe has been telling the United States for more than a year.

But it also threatens to create just the type of two-tiered NATO alliance that U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned against early this year.

FIGHT, OR WRITE A CHECK   Continued...

<p>Afghan National Army soldiers raise their rifles as they train in Kabul September 21, 2008. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood</p>