Lithuania offers to help Afghan mission
BRUSSELS: New NATO member Lithuania has offered troops to help the military alliance expand its Afghanistan peacekeeping mission into the west of the country, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on Friday.
De Hoop Scheffer welcomed the offer and said it should encourage others to come forward and help with the mission’s expansion, which has been held back by a reluctance of European allies to commit troops and equipment.
He said Lithuania was setting up a provincial reconstruction team - one of the groups comprising up to a few hundred troops, which NATO has used as the basis for its Afghan presence.
“It is a laudable step. If Lithuania can do it, others can do it,” he told reporters. De Hoop Scheffer did not say how many troops had been offered by the former Soviet state, which joined NATO during its last wave of expansion in May 2004. He said it would need to be backed up by contributions from other countries.
The NATO-led ISAF force in Afghanistan has some 8,000 troops in the capital Kabul and the north. NATO officials hope to have secured enough troop commitments by a February meeting of NATO defence ministers to push ahead with the westward expansion in Afghanistan. The alliance is seeking nations to establish four provincial reconstruction teams in the west. reuters