Obama, Seeking a Stronger NATO, Meets With Its Secretary General
By Michael A. Fletcher
President Obama met with North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in the Oval Office today, and afterward said he is confident that the alliance can be more effective in battling the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.
Since taking office, the Obama administration has made clear that it wants NATO's help in carrying out a new strategy in Afghanistan. The administration has called for more troop contributions from its allies, which has been a sensitive subject for European governments that have already said they are unwilling to contribute more soldiers. The administration is currently working on a review of the strategy in Afghanistan, which is likely to result in streamlined goals for the mission.
Obama recently decided to send an additional 17,000 U.S. troops to join the 38,000-strong U.S. force in Afghanistan. He has signaled that he is seeking similar additions to the 25,000-member contingent of non-U.S. forces in Afghanistan, many of whom are engaged in noncombat missions, along with increased commitments in money and supplies for the rebuilding effort that many experts say is just as important as the military campaign.
"We are confident that we can create a process whereby NATO, which is already strong, becomes stronger; where we become even more effective in coordinating our efforts in Afghanistan," Obama told reporters after today's meeting. The session came just over a week before he is scheduled to attend the 60th anniversary NATO summit co-hosted by Germany and France.
In his comments, De Hoop Scheffer said NATO is eagerly awaiting the U.S. policy review on Afghanistan. "Many things are going right," he said of Afghanistan, "but many things are not going right." He added that Afghanistan is NATO's "most important operational priority."
The president said the 45-minute meeting also touched on how NATO deals with the threat of terrorism, and on Obama's desire to "reset" relations with Russia.
"My administration is seeking a re-set of the relationship with Russia, but in a way that's consistent with NATO membership and consistent with the need to send a clear signal throughout Europe that we are going to continue to abide by the central belief that countries who seek and aspire to join NATO are able to join NATO," Obama said.
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March 25, 2009; 1:09 PM ET
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