updated 9/7/2006 5:58:28 AM ET 2006-09-07T09:58:28

NATO’s top commander, Gen. James L. Jones, on Thursday called for allied nations to send reinforcements to southern Afghanistan, saying the coming weeks could be decisive in the fight against the Taliban.

Jones will meet top generals from the 26 NATO nations Friday and Saturday in Warsaw, Poland, in an attempt to generate troops, planes and helicopters needed for the mission.

Jones acknowledged that NATO had been surprised by the “level of intensity” of Taliban attacks since the alliance moved into the southern region in July and by the fact that the insurgents were prepared to stand and fight rather than deploy their usual hit-and-run tactics.

On Thursday, Taliban militants took over a police station in the remote southern town of Garmser in Helmand province after officers fled for a second time in two months, police said. Taliban forces briefly held the town for two days in July before coalition troops retook it.

Jones said, however, that he was confident that NATO troops could win the war.

“In the relatively near future, certainly before the winter, we will see this decisive moment in the region turn in favor of the troops that represent the government,” Jones said.

Effort 'destroy' Taliban before their winter retreat
He told reporters he was confident the meeting in Warsaw would muster helicopters, transport planes and several hundred “flexible” reserve troops able to move quickly around the region in support of the operation against the Taliban.

“It will help us to reduce casualties and bring this to a successful conclusion in a short period of time,” he said. “This is not a desperate move, it is more of an insurance package.”

Jones added he wanted to “destroy” Taliban fighters now confronting the NATO mission before they head back into the mountains with the onset of winter within the next few weeks.

Although Jones said he was confident allies would respond to his appeal at the Warsaw meeting, he did acknowledge that nations have been reluctant to commit troops to the NATO force, which has sustained increasing casualties in the last weeks.

He criticized the international community for not matching the military effort in Afghanistan with more help to the country to develop its economy, build up the police and judicial services and, in particular, help Afghan authorities tackle the country’s burgeoning narcotics problem.

“The future of Afghanistan will not be determined by the military,” he said.

He complained that aid programs to Afghanistan were “in some stage of life support,” and insisted that civilian aid to stabilize the country was vital to secure an exit strategy for the international military force.

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