President George W. Bush said Wednesday he has no problem with some NATO allies refusing to contribute forces to fight alongside the United States and others in Afghanistan's dangerous south.
Bush's statement contradicted repeated and high-profile criticism by officials within his own administration and other countries. It came in an interview previewing this weekend's visit to the president's Texas ranch by Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Germany is among the NATO countries, also including France, Italy and Spain, that have restricted their troops to relatively peaceful areas in Afghanistan's north. The only NATO troops operating in the more violent front-line provinces, where most of the fighting against the Taliban is taking place, are from the United States, Canada, the Netherlands and Britain. The issue has caused a rift within NATO and caused officials from the participating countries to try to sway the restricted countries to change course.