A Mixed Verdict on Obama's Afghan Plans

By Dan Froomkin
1:20 PM ET, 04/ 6/2009

NATO leaders were hugely supportive of President Obama's new plans and goals for Afghanistan over the weekend. But that doesn't mean they actually want their troops involved.

I have to wonder if that's not the same way most Americans would respond if it were up to them.

Edward Cody writes in The Washington Post: "NATO allies handed President Obama a broad endorsement of his new Afghan strategy Saturday, pledging the temporary dispatch of 3,000 troops to protect elections next August, new military training teams to strengthen Afghanistan's army and more civilian experts to consolidate its government.

"The promises...dramatized once again that European leaders are unwilling to follow Obama's lead in making major new commitments of troops to fight and perhaps die in a faraway war that is widely unpopular among their voters.

"At a closing news conference, Obama portrayed the outcome as a success for his maiden encounter with NATO summitry, suggesting that trainers and civilians can be just as valuable as fighters."

But in the New York Times, Steven Erlanger and Helene Cooper called it a "tepid troop commitment to President Obama’s escalating campaign in Afghanistan....

"Despite a glowing reception and widespread praise for Mr. Obama’s style and aims, his calls for a more lasting European troop increase for Afghanistan were politely brushed aside, as they had been in negotiations leading up to the meeting....

"'No one will say this publicly, but the true fact is that we are all talking about our exit strategy from Afghanistan,' a senior European diplomat said Saturday. 'We are getting out. It may take a couple of years, but we are all looking to get out.'"

Where's our exit strategy? Still nowhere to be found.

Asked at the news conference if he still believes in "American exceptionalism," Obama restated his views about American leadership and collaboration.

"Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we've got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we're not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us.

"And so I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we create partnerships because we can't solve these problems alone."

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