(Adds Miliband quotes, paragraphs 8-10)
LONDON, Nov 12 (Reuters) - More international troops are needed in the south of Afghanistan and they must be ready to fight insurgents, the country’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, visiting Britain with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said international efforts to train the Afghan military to handle security by itself remained vital for the long-term, but in the meantime more foreign fighting troops were needed.
“For the short-term strategy ... we need more forces in the south, and the south east ... to control cross-border terrorist activities,” Spanta told BBC radio.
“But these troops have to be fighter troops, to be active in this part, to respond to terrorist activities.”
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to send more troops to Afghanistan, where the United States already has more than 30,000 military personnel and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has not ruled out sending more troops to add to the 8,000 British soldiers already there.
But Brown stressed on Tuesday that NATO allies should do more to share the burden.
Some NATO members have complained that others are not sending troops to southern Afghanistan, where the bulk of the fighting is taking place.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said after talks with Spanta: “We are both absolutely clear that an economic approach and a political approach must go side by side with a security approach on both sides of the Afghan/Pakistan border.
“Britain is the second largest contributor already (of foreign forces in Afghanistan) and the principle of burden-sharing is an important principle that needs to be adhered to as we consider the needs in Afghanistan.”
He said a review was taking place in the United States about their military force in Afghanistan, adding: “I think we should wait and see how American plans develop and then make our own assessment in due course.”
Despite the presence of 71,000 foreign troops and more than 130,000 Afghan security forces, Afghanistan’s Taliban, who were driven from power by U.S.-led forces after the Sept. 11 2001 attacks, have extended their insurgency.
This year in Afghanistan more than 2,500 people have been killed in the first six months alone, 1,000 of them civilians. Western diplomats admit there is no purely military solution to the conflict, a view echoed by Spanta.
“The military option is not the only option — but it is still, in the south part of Afghanistan, the relevant option to fight terrorism,” Spanta said.
He said it was vital “to destroy the sanctuaries of terrorists and cross-border terrorist activities in this part of the world”. (Reporting by Adrian Croft and Kate Kelland; Editing by Giles Elgood)