The Sunday Express has seen figures which show Britain is paying more towards the military operation that any of its European allies.

Despite repeated requests for additional troops to bolster the 40-nation International Security Assistance Force, British soldiers outnumber the combined contingent sent by France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

With the death toll rising and large numbers of Britons wounded, the figures will re-ignite the debate about how long our soldiers should bear the burden while allies hold back.

Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox warned that the future of Nato was at stake if major European partners could not be persuaded to provide more resources and manpower.

He said: “It is the Americans and Canadians who are fighting alongside British troops on the frontline in Afghanistan while, with a few honourable exceptions, most notably the Dutch, it is not the majority of our EU partners.”

The figures show that in 2007 Britain’s military operation cost £742million. Spain provided £187million in 2007 and Italy £234million. Germany’s contribution averaged £300million a year.

Questions are also being raised about the role of European allies. While US, Canadian and British forces are at the sharp end of the fighting in southern Afghanistan, key European partners have resisted pleas to send more troops to the frontlines in Helmand and Kandahar.

France has sent 1,515 soldiers, most  restricted to the relatively stable Kabul province, while the majority of Germany’s 3,210 soldiers are stationed in the north. German pilots have been banned from flying at night, while Polish and Slovakian engineers are confined to base.

In a major blow to the alliance, Canada announced last week it would withdraw all 2,500 of its soldiers from  Kandahar province by 2011.

Canada’s death toll stands at 78, the third highest behind the US and Britain. Britain has 7,800 soldiers in Afghanistan, mostly in Helmand. The US provides 15,000 of the 43,000-strong force.

It was revealed last week that 3,700 additional EU troops will be sent to Chad, a former French colony, even though European allies insist no more can be spared for Afghanistan.

Lord Robertson, the former Nato Secretary General who took the organisation into Afghanistan, warned: “There cannot be one tier for those to carry burdens and the bloody sacrifice and a tier for those who benefit from that contribution. Collective security is what it means – collective.”