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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. allies will likely wait weeks before deciding whether to send more troops to Afghanistan rather than responding immediately to President Barack Obama's coming announcement on U.S. forces, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
"I don't think there's an expectation that you're going to see a bunch of nations standing up in rapid succession and declaring their intention to add large numbers of additional forces right away," said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.
"I think this is something that will likely take ... several weeks, probably, to come to fruition."
After three months reviewing Afghan war strategy, Obama is expected to make a prime time announcement next Tuesday about the way forward in the face of rising casualties, fading public support and a resurgent Taliban.
Influential voices in Obama's national security cabinet, including Defence Secretary Robert Gates and military chiefs, favour a U.S. troop increase of 30,000-plus, officials say. The final number could reach 35,000 or more with U.S. trainers.
Other White House advisers have pushed to keep the total number closer to 20,000 with a sharper focus on training Afghan security forces, officials said.
A big question is whether NATO contributions could lift the final number closer to the 40,000 troops sought by the top U.S. and NATO commander on the ground, General Stanley McChrystal.
"If indeed, we add more forces it would be expected that our allies would find a way to do the same. And I'm sure appropriate conversations would be had with them about what they can do and when they can do it," Morrell said.
Morrell said "maybe we'll see something" on new troop commitments at a NATO conference on troop levels on December 7. But he said many allies might wait until a European conference on Afghanistan expected to take place in late January.
Germany, the third largest contributor of forces to Afghanistan, said last week it would not make a decision on new troops until after the January conference.
"And I think other nations have signalled a similar desire to wait until that conference," Morrell told reporters.
With some 68,000 troops in Afghanistan, U.S. forces already outnumber the 42,000 contributed by all other NATO allies, many of which are restricted as to where and how they can be used.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Alan Elsner)

Reuters