GOP debate features first appearance for Rick Perry

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry speaks to members of the South Carolina GOP during a fundraiser in Columbia in August.

KABUL -- The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan is asking for 2,000 more soldiers to join the 140,000-strong international force here, NATO officials said Monday. It was unclear how many would be Americans.

Coalition officials said nearly half will be trainers for the rapidly expanding Afghan security forces and will include troops trained to neutralize roadside bombs that have been responsible for about 60 percent of the 2,000 allied deaths in the nearly 9-year war.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the NATO-led command had been asking for the troops even before Gen. David Petraeus assumed command here in July.

Petraeus recently renewed that request with the NATO command. The alliance has had trouble raising more troops for the war effort, with at least 450 training slots still unfilled after more than a year.

With casualties rising, the war has become deeply unpopular in many of NATO's 28 member countries, suggesting the additional forces will have to come from the United States. In Europe, polls show the majority of voters consider it an unnecessary drain on finances at a time of sharp cuts in public spending and other austerity measures.

In addition, The Associated Press has learned that the United States expects to spend about $6 billion a year training and supporting Afghan troops and police after it begins pulling out its own combat troops in 2011.

The previously undisclosed estimates of U.S. spending through 2015, detailed in a NATO training mission document, are an acknowledgment that Afghanistan will remain largely dependent on the United States for its security.

The training-mission document, reviewed by the AP, outlines large-scale infrastructure projects including a military hospital and military and police academies aimed at "establishing enduring institutions" and "creating irreversible momentum."

Spending for training is projected to taper off from $11.6 billion next year to an average of $6.2 billion over the following four years. Much of the reduction reflects reduced spending on infrastructure.

Also Monday, several hundred Afghans shouted anti-American slogans and "death" to President Barack Obama to protest plans by a Florida church to burn the Islamic holy book the Quran on Saturday to mark the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

The crowd listened to fiery speeches from members of parliament, provincial council deputies and Islamic clerics who criticized the U.S. and demanded the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country. Some threw rocks when a U.S. military convoy passed, but speakers shouted at them to stop and told police to arrest anyone who disobeyed.