Bush Wants More Troops for Afghanistan

U.S. President George Bush says more NATO troops are needed to battle Taleban militia in Afghanistan. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, Mr. Bush spoke in the Latvian capital, Riga, ahead of the annual summit of the NATO alliance.

President Bush says NATO's founding principle that an attack on one is an attack on all holds true whether the violence comes on a member's home soil or against their troops serving on a NATO mission abroad.

With some NATO members reluctant to boost troop levels in Afghanistan, Mr. Bush says it is time the alliance better share the burden of backing Hamid Karzai's government.

"Taleban and al-Qaida fighters and drug traffickers and criminal elements and local warlords remain active and committed to destroying democracy in Afghanistan," Mr. Bush says. "Defeating them will require the full commitment of our alliance. For NATO to succeed, its commanders on the ground must have the resources and flexibility they need to do their jobs."

Increasing NATO troop levels in Afghanistan is the president's top priority at this summit in Latvia.

With most of the fighting in southern and eastern Afghanistan, countries with troops on those front lines - mainly Canada, Britain, the United States and the Netherlands - want more support from NATO members Germany, Italy, France, and Spain who have restricted their troops to the relatively peaceful north and west.

Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay says public support for his country's mission in Afghanistan could dissolve if other NATO members fail to provide troops for operations in the south.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is also concerned about the generally poor response to a September call for more troops in Afghanistan, but he says the alliance will ultimately prevail against Taleban militia and is confident that NATO will be able to hand over more responsibility to Afghan troops in 2008.

President Bush says NATO operations in Afghanistan are central to the broader fight against terrorism by helping to train the Afghan army and rebuild the nation.

"We are in a long struggle against terrorists and extremists who follow a hateful ideology and seek to establish a totalitarian empire from Spain to Indonesia," Mr. Bush says. "We fight against the extremists who desire safe-havens and are willing to kill innocents anywhere to achieve their objectives."

Following this NATO summit, President Bush leaves for Jordan and talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Mr. Bush says terrorists in Iraq are trying to destabilize the unity government there, and he wants to know what the United States can do to help stop them.