Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other NATO defense ministers will meet in this small mountain resort on Wednesday to discuss increased training and contributions toward strengthening Iraqi security forces.
U.S. officials said they hope to persuade NATO members to accelerate the staffing of an Iraqi training center outside Baghdad and to provide more equipment to the operation.
While NATO approved the expansion of the facility and agreed to send about 300 personnel to train senior Iraqi military officers as part of an effort to protect upcoming elections, the issue has been controversial. France, Germany, Belgium and Spain opposed training soldiers in Iraq, citing security concerns and refusing to contribute forces. There were also worries that nations contributing NATO troops could become targets of violence.
Nicholas Burns, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, told reporters on Tuesday that the defense ministers likely would consider broadening the alliance's work in Afghanistan -- where 7,500 NATO troops are involved in reconstruction operations. He said they also would discuss the 20,000-member NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. U.S. officials also are expected to talk about additional defense spending by member countries. The U.S. annual defense budget is about $417 billion, while the 25 other NATO nations spend a combined $200 billion.
Rumsfeld told reporters that NATO knows it needs to adapt to the global terrorism threat and is working to update its military structure for the 21st century.
"The end of the Cold War changed things, and the NATO members realized they are the military alliance on the face of the Earth," Rumsfeld said. He has been on a whirlwind trip through the Middle East and Eastern Europe since last week, spending a portion of his time discussing Iraq and global military cooperation with top officials from several countries.
Rumsfeld arrived in the Carpathian Mountains on Tuesday after meeting with Romanian leaders in Bucharest and having lunch with about two dozen Romanian veterans of the Iraq war. In the past few days, Rumsfeld has also met with troops and veterans from South Korea and Macedonia as part of an outreach to countries that have supported the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
U.S. defense officials hope to persuade other nations to begin shouldering more of the security load while the United States works to make Iraq's military self-sufficient. Rumsfeld has said several times during his trip, which included a day-long visit to various locations in Iraq, that he expects violence to escalate as planned January elections approach. So far, top U.S. generals there have not requested additional troops, but they have not ruled out making such a request.