US created ‘healthy tension’ in NATO, minister

US defence secretary Robert Gates has created a ‘healthy tension’ with his tough performance at the NATO summit in Lithuania, Dutch defence minister Eimert van Middelkoop told reporters on Thursday.

Gates said on Wednesday that NATO’s future was at risk because of the refusal of some members to participate in the alliance’s mission in Afghanistan. And he criticised others, such as Germany, for avoiding the more volatile southern regions.
US, UK, Australian, Canadian and Dutch troops are serving in the areas where most of the fighting is taking place.
Middelkoop said that while Gates was ‘the first among equals’ he did not expect the comments to cause serious problems between the allies. ‘We cannot allow that. We have a job to do and we must succeed in it,’ news agency ANP quoted him as saying.
At the end of last year, the Netherlands voted to extend its mission in Afghanistan for two years to August 2010. There are some 1,600 Dutch soldiers in the country.
Earlier, Middelkoop held talks with Canadian defence minister Peter MacKay who has threatened to pull out of the region unless a thousand new soldiers are brought in as support.
On Thursday, former Dutch foreign minister and now NATO secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer warned that the failure of the Afghan mission could result in more terrorist attacks in western countries.
‘If terrorism is not dealt with in Afghanistan, the consequences…. will also be felt in London, Brussels and Amsterdam,’ he said.
But BBC sources said it is unlikely member states would offer to send more soldiers to the region during the two-day meeting.

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