Can NATO really get 5,000 troops?

Referring to the United States’s NATO partners, President Obama last night asked, “that our commitment be joined by contributions from our allies. Some have already provided additional troops, and we’re confident that there will be further contributions in the days and weeks ahead.” A conference will be held in London in January to discuss international ...

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WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 28: North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen answers questions about the future of NATO and the mission in Afghanistan during a forum at the Atlantic Council September 28, 2009 in Washington, DC. Former Prime Minister of Denmark, Rasmussen addressed the debate in the U.S. about the way forward in Afghanistan as many European allies are wavering in their commitment to ISAF. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Referring to the United States's NATO partners, President Obama last night asked, "that our commitment be joined by contributions from our allies. Some have already provided additional troops, and we're confident that there will be further contributions in the days and weeks ahead." A conference will be held in London in January to discuss international contributions to the effort.

NATO Chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen promised 5,000 troops, but it's a little unclear where he's going to get them:

Referring to the United States’s NATO partners, President Obama last night asked, “that our commitment be joined by contributions from our allies. Some have already provided additional troops, and we’re confident that there will be further contributions in the days and weeks ahead.” A conference will be held in London in January to discuss international contributions to the effort.

NATO Chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen promised 5,000 troops, but it’s a little unclear where he’s going to get them:

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. […]

Britain announced before Obama’s speech it is sending 500 more troops to Afghanistan, bringing its numbers there to 10,000.

France and Germany are holding off on any troop decision until an international conference in January, though French President Nicolas Sarkozy has previously pledged that he “won’t send an additional soldier.”

The other big question is the Netherlands, whose parliament voted for a non-binding resolution in favor of withdrawal when the Dutch mission ends next August. If the Dutch government follows through and pulls out its 2,160 troops, that would more than negate the 1,385 troops already pledged by Britain, Spain, Poland and Albania. Canada has already passed a withdrawal plan for 2011 as well and seems unlikely to add more troops. 

Even in a best-case scenario in which the Dutch keep current troop levels and the countries mentioned are able to follow through through on their commitments, NATO will still need get more than 3,500 troops from the Italians, the Australians, the deeply ambivalent Germans and a hodge-podge of smaller nations, none of whom currently have more than 1,000 troops in the country. 

It doesn’t seem too likely. 

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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