NATO urges US lawmakers to lobby EU to drop restrictions on Afghan ops

NATO's supreme commander, US Gen. Bantz Craddock, on Thursday urged US lawmakers to press their European counterparts to drop restrictions on how and where troops from their countries can be used in NATO's Afghanistan mission. In testimony to the House of Representatives' Armed Services Committee, Craddock also raised the perennial US complaint about the failure of European members to meet NATO benchmarks for defense spending. Craddock said that only seven of the alliance's 27 members currently meet the alliance's stated minimum level for defense spending and added that he does not see a trend toward increases. Craddock's complaint about restrictions on troops in Afghanistan - known as caveats - reflects a growing tension in NATO. The issue is likely to be a major topic at the alliance's summit meeting in Bucharest early next month. Asked what US lawmakers could do, Craddock suggested they should raise the issue in meetings with European parliamentarians and leaders. "We have to convey the consequences, the impacts of those caveats on day-to-day operations in stark terms not only to military representatives in the countries that have the caveats but also to those in the political arena," he said.