MONS, Belgium - NATO may face tough losses as Taliban guerrillas gain ground in the escalating war in Afghanistan, but ultimately the alliance will win, NATO's supreme commander said Wednesday in his first interview since taking charge.
U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis, 54, said he did not know if reinforcements will be required from European allies. They have grown increasingly reluctant to commit more troops to the eight-year conflict.
"I am confident we will win in Afghanistan. There will be some good days and there will be some bad days, some big challenges," Stavridis - the first Navy admiral to command NATO's military headquarters - said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Stavridis said force levels will hinge on a set of recommendations expected later this month from U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, appointed in June as the top NATO commander in Afghanistan.
Forecasts of McChrystal's recommendations range from a few thousand to more than 20,000 involving a potential mix of Afghan, NATO and American units.
McChrystal's predecessor, Gen. David McKiernan, previously called for an extra 10,000 troops to arrive next year, but that recommendation has been set aside.
Some European contributors to the NATO force in Afghanistan, particularly Germany, already have emphasized they will not provide reinforcements. Others have declined comment or expressed skepticism.
More than 100,000 American and NATO troops are already in Afghanistan as well as 175,000 Afghan soldiers and police. They face an estimated 15,000 Taliban guerrillas.
But providing security to Afghanistan's 33 million people amid an active insurgency in mountainous terrain with few roads has many limitations.
In an interview published Monday in The Wall Street Journal, McChrystal said Taliban militants are gaining momentum as they move beyond their strongholds in southern Afghanistan to other regions.
Reacting to that report, Stavridis said the key to victory lay in deploying sufficient numbers of adequately trained Afghan soldiers and police.
"I'm extremely encouraged by the work General McChrystal is doing in training Afghan security forces, " he said. "At the end of the day, the way we will win in Afghanistan ... will be through training the Afghan security forces."