Obama and the Europeans face Afghanistan
By Scott Wilson
Regardless of how President Obama decides to proceed in Afghanistan, he will be seeking additional help from his European allies with the fighting, training and building that his top general says is necessary to stabilize the country.
Obama will be making the case Tuesday in a series of White House meetings with visiting European leaders, beginning with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Oval Office.
Merkel won reelection in September after a campaign during which her rival proposed withdrawing some of Germany's 4,500 troops in Afghanistan by 2011. Merkel opposed the proposal, saying any withdrawal should be coordinated among NATO members.
Obama thanked Germans on Tuesday for their "sacrifice" in Afghanistan, where about 35 German soldiers have been killed. Germany is also in charge of the training program for the Afghan National Police, an important element of all strategies under discussion in the White House.
Obama said that "Germany has been an extraordinarily strong ally on a whole host of international issues."
"We appreciate the sacrifices of German soldiers in Afghanistan," he said, "and our common work there to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan and to create the environment in which the Afghan people themselves can provide for their own security."
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of the roughly 100,000 U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, has asked Obama for tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops to quickly turn back the Taliban.
At a meeting in Slovakia last month, NATO defense ministers endorsed McChrystal's counter-insurgency strategy. But the stated support has not turned into specific pledges from Europe's political leaders of additional combat forces.
In many ways, Obama's ability to persuade European leaders to send more troops to the eight-year-old war is a test of his diplomacy, which emphasizes the international alliances that the Bush administration often ignored.
European leaders have praised his departure from the go-it-alone style and policies of President George W. Bush, and Obama enjoys rock-star popularity among the European public.
So far, though, the domestic political calculations of European leaders are outweighing Obama's appeal to their shared interests in creating a peaceful, al-Qaeda-free Afghanistan. The war is deeply unpopular in Europe, where many see it as an American project.
On Tuesday afternoon, Obama is scheduled to participate in United States-European Union mini-summit in the White House Cabinet Room.
He will be hosting Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, president of the European Council; European Commission President José Manuel Barroso; and European Council High Representative Javier Solana.
Obama's ongoing review of Afghanistan strategy, and how Europe can support his decision, will almost certainly come up.
November 3, 2009; 11:13 AM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency
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