The two-day meeting of Nato defence ministers would focus on the way forward in Afghanistan, besides discussing other issues of international concern.

'Stalemate'

Major military deployments in Afghanistan


With an additional 17,000 US troops expected in Afghanistan, the major military deployments will include: 

 US: 55,000 (north and east)
 UK: 8,600 (Kabul, Kandahar, Helmand)
 Germany: 3,500 (north)
 Italy: 2,880 (west and Kabul)
 Canada: 2,800 (south)
 Netherlands: 1,650 (south)
 France: 1,515 (Kabul)
 Poland: 1,100 (mobile)
 Australia: 1,070 (south)

Al Jazeera's Hamish Macdonald, reporting from Kabul, said the US was keen to increase troop numbers in southern Afghanistan, specifically the provinces of Kandahar and Helmand.

"Its not just that the United States wants other Nato member states to commit more soldiers, they also want them to commit them to the areas where the heaviest fighting has been taking place," he said.

General David McKiernan , the senior US military commander in Afghanistan, said on Wednesday that it would be a tough year ahead for Washington and its allies.

"Even with these additional [17,000] forces, I have to tell you that 2009 is going to be a tough year,"  McKiernan said at the Pentagon.

He said most of the additional US troops would go to southern Afghanistan, the heartland of the battle against the Taliban and where Nato forces are struggling to hold terrain.

"What this allows us to do is change the dynamics of the security situation, predominantly in southern Afghanistan, where we are, at best, stalemated," he said.

He said the US will need to be heavily committed for the next three to four years in Afghanistan, where violence blamed on the Taliban has increased to its highest levels since US-led forces ousted the group from power in 2001.

Karzai visit

Meanwhile, Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, is expected to travel to Pakistan to discuss the security situation in the region.

Karzai had planned to meet Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan's president, on Thursday but his trip was delayed due to heavy snowfall in Kabul, the Afghan capital.

The two countries have had troubled relations in the past, with both accusing each other of not doing enough to prevent Taliban fighters from crossing over their shared border to carry out attacks.

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan are US allies and plan to send their foreign ministers to Washington next week as part of Obama's review of regional policy.