KRAKOW, Poland — NATO defense ministers concluded two days of talks here on Friday amid indications that few allies were willing to offer significant numbers of additional combat troops for Afghanistan, but that some might seek to compensate by deploying more civilians to train local security forces and build the country’s economy.
The announcement this week that the Obama administration would send 17,000 more American troops to Afghanistan by summer was met with formal offers from allies of a few hundred additional troops of their own.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, speaking at the end of the session, stressed the importance of having enough troops on the ground to guarantee that national elections in Afghanistan, now set for August, are safe and credible.
He went out of his way to compliment a handful of countries that, like the United States, have contributed troops and civilian development teams. But in a tacit acknowledgment that other countries would be unwilling or unable to send more combat forces, Mr. Gates appealed for them to send civilians to carry out important, noncombat development tasks.
NATO’s supreme allied commander, Gen. John Craddock, said he left the session optimistic that two to three additional battalions — totaling perhaps a few thousand troops in all — would be sent by allies in time for the elections.
General Craddock said that one option under consideration was for countries whose troops are now assigned to the NATO rapid reaction force, which is not deployed, to send those forces to Afghanistan for duty before and during the elections.
In an interview, General Craddock said the alliance’s new counternarcotics policies were showing results. Under plans now being put into effect, NATO military forces can attack drug lords, drug factories and traffickers if they are helping to finance the insurgency.General Craddock said that in recent weeks four operations had been carried out to destroy 11 laboratories, with narcotics valued at $500 million.