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Bush calls on NATO to increase troops in Afghanistan

Story Highlights

• President Bush wants NATO nations to send more troops to Afghanistan
• Bush wants NATO allies to lift restrictions on troops in the country
• The president plans to extend the stay of 3,200 U.S. troops in Afghanistan
• Bush is requesting $11.8 billion from Congress
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- NATO nations need to increase the number of troops they send to Afghanistan, President Bush said in a speech Thursday.

The president also called on North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies to lift restrictions on the troops they have in Afghanistan.

"The people of Afghanistan need to know that they've got a lot of friends in this world who want them to succeed," the president said in the speech at the American Enterprise Institute. (Watch Bush explain why he is sending more troops, money to Afghanistan Video)

"When our commanders on the ground say to our respective countries, 'We need additional help,' our NATO countries must provide it in order to be successful in this mission," he said.

The president said the United States would be relentless in its pressure in fighting the anticipated resurgence of the Taliban.

"This spring, there's going to be a new offensive in Afghanistan, it's going to be a NATO offensive."

The president listed countries that have recently increased troops in the region, including Norway, Lithuania and the Czech Republic. About 50,000 U.S. and NATO troops are inside Afghanistan.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-California, said on Capitol Hill that allies in Europe and the Persian Gulf need to put forth more effort, The Associated Press reported.

"It is simply unacceptable that NATO commanders are left to beg for troops from countries like Germany, France, Italy, and Spain," he said.

"It is an outrage that only troops from the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark and the United Kingdom are deployed to the most hazardous spots. ... No longer should this administration stand passively by while our so-called allies take advantage of American generosity and courage," he said, according to AP.

Bush called on allies to lift restrictions on the forces provided so NATO commanders would have the flexibility they need to "defeat the enemy wherever the enemy may make its stand."

Some countries limit where their forces can go and don't deploy troops to volatile regions in the south and east.

"The alliance was founded on this principal: an attack on one is an attack on all. This principal holds true whether this attack is on the home soil of a NATO nation or allied forces deployed on a NATO mission abroad," the president said.

The president also emphasized the importance of the alliance's 25 provincial reconstruction teams across the country helping the government improve security and extend its reach into distant regions.

"Many Afghans in remote regions fight with Taliban simply because there are no other jobs available," he said. "The best way to dry up Taliban recruits is to help Afghanistan create jobs and opportunity."

The president also affirmed plans to extend the stay of 3,200 U.S. troops in Afghanistan by four months and deploy a replacement force to sustain the increase for the "foreseeable future," he said.

The extension of duty for the 3rd Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division was announced by the Pentagon last month, but this is the first time the president has officially affirmed it.

Bush also said he is requesting $11.8 billion from Congress over the next two years to help Afghanistan.

"Our goal is to help the people of that country to defeat the terrorists and establish a stable, moderate, democratic state that respects the rights of its citizens, governs its territory effectively and is a reliable ally in this war against extremists and terrorists," the president said.

"It's in our national interest that we succeed, that we help President [Hamid] Karzai and the people of Afghanistan succeed," he said.

Additionally, the president described plans to increase Afghan security forces, develop Afghanistan's rural economy, decrease poppy cultivation and help Karzai fight corruption.

Criticism from Democrats

Some Democrats have blasted the Bush administration, saying the president and his advisors dropped the ball on Afghanistan because of the war in Iraq.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, said Thursday the United States has reached a critical juncture in Afghanistan.

"For several years now, I and a few others have been arguing that we needed a more robust presence in Afghanistan, and that we were taking our eye off of the real conflict, which was in Afghanistan... where the Taliban is now somewhat resurgent," Kerry said in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"The accumulated effects of violent terrorist insurgent attacks, corruption, insufficient social resources and growing income disparities are taking their toll," he said.

Earlier this week, Missouri Rep. Ike Skelton, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said he was glad the administration was focusing more in Afghanistan, but said the United States "lost critical time because of insufficient forces and inadequate resource."

"Afghanistan has been the forgotten war. Some opportunities there have been squandered. But there's still a chance to set things right, particularly if we seize the moment and establish real security, Skelton said at a committee hearing Tuesday.

"We must do much more to secure and stabilize that country," he said.


President Bush wants more troops in Afghanistan, he said in a speech Thursday.

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