NATO's secretary-general, Japp de Hoop Scheffer, also said Monday that NATO must engage with Iran to secure regional support for the escalating war in neighboring Afghanistan.
The surprise call from the head of the Western alliance comes as the new U.S. administration prepares to send 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan, where Taliban militants are regrouping and violence is on the rise. They will reinforce the 62,000-strong NATO and U.S. force already operating there.
"We need a discussion that brings in all the relevant players: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China, Russia — and yes, Iran. We need a pragmatic approach to solve this very real challenge," de Hoop Scheffer said in a speech to the Security and Defense Agenda, a Brussels-based think tank.
Until now, the United States has sought to isolate the clerical regime in Iran from meddling in Afghanistan, although the Shiite nation has a long history of opposing Taliban rule there. De Hoop Scheffer said what's required is a broader approach that includes all of Afghanistan's neighbors, but he was "not sure at this stage" how to constructively bring Iran into Afghanistan diplomacy.