ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 17 -- President Bush on Friday called for doubling the number of international troops in the war-ravaged Darfur region of Sudan and a bigger role for NATO in the peacekeeping effort.
Bush has concluded that peace talks will not halt the violence that has left tens of thousands dead and more than 2 million homeless in Darfur and that a more muscular military response is required, administration officials said.
The Bush administration has settled on the idea of sending up to several hundred NATO advisers to help bolster African Union peacekeeping troops in their efforts to shield villagers in Sudan's Darfur region from fighting between government-backed Arab militias and rebel groups, administration officials said.
The move would include some U.S. troops and mark a significant expansion of U.S. and allied involvement in the conflict. So far, NATO's role has been limited to airlifting African Union forces to the region and providing a few military specialists to help the peacekeeping contingent.
The proposal, which still faces uncertain approval within NATO because of concerns that it could be a distraction from operations in Afghanistan, falls well short of more aggressive measures that some have advocated, such as sending ground combat troops or providing air patrols to protect peacekeepers and prevent the bombing of villages. These options have been ruled out as unnecessary at this time, an administration official said.
In general, U.S. officials said, their aim has been to address shortcomings in the African Union force without upstaging that force and stirring resentment in a region highly sensitive to the presence of Western troops.