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LONDON (Reuters) - NATO's secretary-general said on Wednesday he expected alliance members to provide more resources for training Afghan troops and police, but would not comment on exact troop numbers.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told parliament he expected U.S. President Barack Obama to announce a decision "in a few days" on troop numbers for Afghanistan, but the White House said Obama had not made a decision and any announcement was still weeks away.
Obama is considering a call from the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, for tens of thousands more soldiers, though by no means all will be used to train Afghan security forces.
"We need to train more Afghan soldiers and more Afghan police, so I would expect allies to provide more resources for our training mission in Afghanistan," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told BBC radio ahead of a meeting with Brown on Thursday.
When asked if that would involve NATO members sending more troops, he said no decisions had been taken yet. But he said there was a need for personnel and funds to fully equip the training mission for a smooth transition to Afghan forces.
NATO's Afghan mission currently involves 65,000 U.S. troops and 39,000 from allied nations, including 9,000 from Britain.
They are locked in a stalemate with the Taliban, unable to stem the rising tide of suicide and roadside bomb attacks while insurgents cannot defeat Western troops in open battle.
Military chiefs see transferring responsibility for security to bigger and better-trained Afghan army and police forces as the long-term goal to enable Western troops to withdraw.
NATO has also asked other countries to increase their troop contribution despite growing public discontent with the rising death toll.
OBAMA MULLS OPTIONS
Brown has said he is considering sending a further 500 troops, if Afghan President Hamid Karzai meets certain conditions following his fraud-tainted re-election.
"We are the first country to have agreed to send additional troops for the next stage of the mission in Afghanistan and we are seeking to persuade other countries to join us in this," the prime minister told parliament.
"I have also spoken to President Obama and I expect him to announce in a few days what his numbers for Afghanistan will be."
But White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Tuesday that Obama had not made a decision and any announcement was still weeks away.
Obama meets later on Wednesday with his top military and civilian advisers to discuss war strategy in Afghanistan, the latest in a series of such meetings he has held.
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said Obama was considering options that included sending roughly 15,000, 30,000 or 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan to try to stem Taliban gains.
Asked if Britain could be asked to provide even more troops, Rasmussen said he thought it was premature to present exact figures now.
He also deflected questions about a possible exit strategy, saying again it was too early to provide an exact timetable.
NATO and its allies with troops in Afghanistan have agreed on a framework for transition of security responsibilities to Afghan forces, Rasmussen said.
"In the very near future we will start the concrete planning and I would not be surprised if the first handovers could take place as early as next year," he said.
(Reporting by Avril Ormsby, Tim Castle and Keith Weir; Editing by Jon Hemming)

Reuters