NATO plea for more troops as 400,000 bullets fired
NATO'S commander of operations yesterday demanded more troops be deployed to Afghanistan as military chiefs admitted they were struggling to contain escalating violence in the south.
The call also came on the same day that British commanders said UK troops were being attacked up to a dozen times a day, were involved in hand-to-hand combat and had fired 400,000 bullets.
NATO general James Jones said the alliance had been surprised by the strength of the backlash in the country and urged allies to provide reinforcements.
The US marine-general will today meet representatives of 26 NATO nations, and will appeal to the existing contributors to the 37-nation International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
His appeal will give credence to concerns that troops are overstretched, underscored by the loss of 14 lives in Saturday's Nimrod disaster and the death of three more British troops, including Cpl Mark Wright from Edinburgh, on Wednesday.
While NATO forces had expected some resistance from the Taleban, Gen Jones admitted: "We are a little bit surprised at the level of intensity, and that the opposition in some areas are not relying on hit-and-run tactics. It's akin to poking the beehive, and the bees are swarming."
Gen Jones said the arrival of several hundred more troops before winter would help bring the operation to a "successful conclusion".
His appeal was echoed by Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO's secretary-general, who - in a swipe at Germany - called for more support for the British, Canadian and Dutch troops leading the fight against the militia.
The commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Brigadier Ed Butler, said his troops were involved in "extraordinarily intense" fighting that was "up-close and personal", including hand-to-hand combat.
Brig Butler also revealed that British troops had fired 400,000 bullets since they were deployed to Helmand earlier this year. That is despite a previous assertion by John Reid, then the Defence Secretary, that the British could leave Afghanistan "without firing a shot".
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