BRUSSELS – European and other U.S. allies will contribute more than 5,000 new troops to the international force in Afghanistan, NATO's chief said Wednesday, declaring that the war is not America's alone.
Still, aside from Poland, the pledges came in small numbers from small nations. European powers like France and Germany praised President Barack Obama's speech on his new strategy for Afghanistan but were silent on the offer of new troops.
Reacting to Obama's call for more help, a Polish official said the government will likely send 600 combat-ready reinforcements, mainly for patrolling and training, to beef up its existing 2,000-strong contingent.
Albania pledged to increase its 250-member unit by 85 troops, army trainers and medical workers, Prime Minister Sali Berisha said.
Spain's El Pais daily said the defense ministry was considering adding 200 soldiers to its 1,000 contingent. Italy declared it would do its part and Finland confirmed that it had been asked to consider sending more troops and would do so next week.
The largest contributors — Britain, France and Germany — held off on pledges of new troops, waiting for an Afghanistan conference in London planned for late January.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown welcomed Obama's pledge of 30,000 extra U.S. troops, saying it would speed the job of training Afghan security forces — which he said was a key to an eventual exit for foreign troops.
"It is absolutely crucial for our strategy that the Afghans start to take control of security as soon as possible," Brown added.
Britain announced before Obama's speech it is sending 500 more troops to Afghanistan, bringing its numbers there to 10,000.
French presidential spokesman Luc Chatel said President Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to "give himself some time."
Earlier, Sarkozy commended Obama's speech as "courageous, determined and lucid."
In Germany, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle praised Obama's speech as supporting Germany's position that a political solution backed by military support was the only way forward.
Speaking hours after Obama announced the deployment of 30,000 fresh U.S. troops to Afghanistan, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen issued the strongest words of support.
"In 2010, the non-U.S. members of this mission will send at least 5,000 more soldiers to this operation, and probably a few thousand more," Fogh Rasmussen told reporters. "This is not just America's war, what is happening in Afghanistan poses a clear and present danger to the citizens of all our countries."
This will be in addition to the 38,000 troops allied nations have there now, he said. Rasmussen did not specify where the troops would come from and how many would be from Europe.
The foreign ministers of 43 NATO nations and their allies in Afghanistan will meet late Thursday to discuss the new strategy for Afghanistan, relations with Russia, and other issues. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, will brief the ministers Friday.
A separate force-generation conference for Afghanistan is scheduled for Monday at NATO's military headquarters.
Westerwelle praised Obama for making clear that there must be an end to the mission.
"We agree with the U.S. president, that there cannot be only a military solution, but what we need is a political solution that is supported by the military," Westerwelle said.
He and his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, said their countries remained committed to building up and training the Afghan police force.
The U.S. now has 71,000 troops in Afghanistan, while other NATO members and allies collectively have 38,000 there. With the reinforcements, the international forces will grow to more than 140,000.
The Afghan army has about 94,000 troops, and is slated to expand to 134,000. The Afghan police number about 93,000.
The foreign and Afghan forces face an estimated 25,000 Taliban insurgents.
At the height of the Soviet Union's war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the number of Soviet troops there totaled 118,000.
Poland's offer still needs approval from Prime Minister Donald Tusk's cabinet and President Lech Kaczynski.
Italy, which has 2,800 troops in Afghanistan, did not specify any numbers.
"Italy will do its part, knowing that in the Afghan conflict what is at stake is not just the future of the Afghan people, but also NATO's credibility," Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said in a statement.
Finland said it had received a request to add to its 100 soldiers, which are part of a Swedish-led Provincial Reconstruction Team.
Dutch Defense Minister Eimert van Middelkoop welcomed Obama's speech, but it was not clear how the country would react. The Netherlands, the seventh-largest force in Afghanistan, has 1,600 troops in restive southern Afghanistan who are due to leave next August. The Dutch parliament has passed a nonbinding motion saying it does not support extending the mission.
France and other European countries have stressed the need to strengthen civilian efforts, including more training for teachers and medical personnel.
Sarkozy and Kouchner left the door open Wednesday for a possible new French troop commitment later.
France already has nearly 4,000 troops in Afghanistan, and the U.S. has asked France to commit 1,500 additional troops. Sarkozy said recently that no additional French troops would be sent.
Still, Henri Guaino, a special adviser to Sarkozy, told France-Inter radio "France is a responsible country and intends to assume its responsibilities."
"It doesn't make sense to say 'no, no, no' to everything straightaway," Guaino said.
European leaders must weigh their choices carefully against domestic political concerns. In France, the war is unpopular with much of the left, and regional elections in March will be a key indicator of Sarkozy's popularity and chances to win a second presidential term.