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By David Brunnstrom
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO warned on Wednesday that its European members are unlikely to commit extra troops to Afghanistan immediately after President Barack Obama announces next week an expected boost to U.S. forces in the country.
NATO, which leads a coalition of more than 40 countries in Afghanistan, said Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen would ask allies to make a "commensurate" response, while accepting that it would not be possible to match the United States.
Russia, meanwhile, reiterated its support for international efforts in Afghanistan, but warned that if NATO wanted more cooperation in countering the Taliban-led insurgency, it should keep Moscow better informed of its plans.
Obama will unveil his new strategy for the war in Afghanistan on December 1, the White House said on Wednesday. U.S. officials have said Obama may say he is sending around 30,000 more troops as part of a broader strategy to arrest a deteriorating security situation there.
Speaking before the White House revealed the date of Obama's announcement, NATO spokesman James Appathurai warned that it could be some time before European allies committed more troops.
"Nobody should expect that the day after President Obama makes his announcement that there will be a total troop figure added up and put on the table from the other allies. That is not the way it will work," he told a NATO news briefing.
"There should be patience on everyone's part."
NATO foreign ministers will have political discussions on Afghan strategy on December 3-4 and a conference would be held on December 7 to seek more troops for the mission, Appathurai said.
Some allies, including Germany, are expected to wait until after an international conference on Afghanistan, expected in January, before committing more resources.
Appathurai noted too that several countries had already announced plans for troop increases and non-U.S. allies had doubled commitments from 18,000 to 36,000 in the past 20 months to an overall force of nearly 110,000 international troops.
BROWN OPTIMISTIC ON ALLIED CONTRIBUTIONS
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was optimistic after consultations with 10 contributing countries that they would supply more troops, police trainers and civilian support.
Brown, who has been trying to persuade others in the NATO-led coalition to send around 5,000 more soldiers to help share the burden of combat and training Afghan forces, said in a letter to NATO released on Wednesday that the focus of the consultations had been on increased commitments in the new year.
NATO, engaged in some of the fiercest fighting this year since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, hopes in the long term to transfer security tasks to Afghan soldiers and police, enabling NATO to withdraw. But proper training could take years.
Russia has indicated it is willing to step up logistical help to NATO's mission and the Kabul government. But its ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, said Moscow needed to be kept better briefed of NATO's plans.
"Otherwise it will be difficult to rely on a broadening of support," he told a news briefing.
Rogozin said Russia was particularly worried about the impact on anti-drug efforts of strategy changes and wanted to be kept informed about plans for Afghan political reform.
Russia realised strategy still had to be worked on, "but we would like to be one of the first to be aware," he said.
Afghanistan will be high on the agenda when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets NATO counterparts early next month and when Rasmussen visits Moscow later in December.
NATO-Russia ties have warmed since a freeze after Moscow's 2008 intervention in Georgia. Russia has held out the prospect of expanding transit of NATO supplies and helping Afghan training and Rogozin said it could also help by refurbishing former Soviet bloc helicopters in NATO's fleet.