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Obama To NATO: Help Us Out Against Al Qaeda …

  • April 4th, 2009
  • Posted by 7thmin

nato-symbol.jpgPresident Barack Obama staked a claim for more support in Afghanistan at the commencement of the NATO summit (3.4.09), at Strasbourg-Kehl.  

“Europe should not expect the United states to shoulder that burden alone”, Obama told an audience of young people, before going to dinner with the other alliance Heads of Government.

He said Europe and the United States had a common interest in disabling the al Qaeda terrorist movement, harboured in Afghanistan during the time of Taliban rule in that country.

The President, popular in Europe as his predecessor George W. Bush was not, is once more receiving celebrity treatment from crowds there along his way – a repeat of welcomes he received while a Presidential candidate last year.

Engagements included a meeting with the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and their wives, Carla Bruni and Michelle Obama.

France has recently moved to reinstate its full integration into the NATO military structure, giving up a partly-engaged status initiated under President Charles de Gaulle.

It has also made a stronger military commitment to the Afghanistan campaign being run under NATO command, than most other European states, as Obama publicly acknowledged.

The United States had not had to drag France “kicking and screaming” into Afghanistan, he noted.

France and Germany are jointly hosting the summit of the North Atlantic alliance, which will mark the sixtieth anniversary of its foundation as a Euro-American bulwark against the communist bloc.

The intervention in Afghanistan is its first action as a security organisation working outside the geography of the Atlantic, and has become a point of contention among the 28 member countries.

The United States is increasing its troop strength and as well, under the Obama administration has put a new policy emphasis on civil reconstruction, plus training and expansion for the Afghan army and police.

American officials hope that European allies will join in, with more support in those areas, and more civilian involvement such as an extension of the role of non-governmental organisations.

They have been frustrated in efforts to get bigger armed commitments from Europe as a whole, and the European governments, in turn, have been faced with public opposition to such expansion.

The military position of the Afghan government and its Western allies has deteriorated markedly in the last two years.

A report from the International Crisis Group this year quoted the United Nations, that almost 40% of Afghanistan was at least temporarily inaccessible to governmental or non-governmental aid, (see EUAustralia, “Working on the Afghan Build-up”, 21.2.09).

Seven of the Heads of Government at this week’s G20 economic summit, in London, have moved over to Strasbourg for the NATO gathering, where they are also members.

Certain other G20 participants have gone to NATO too, as their countries have an associate status with the alliance or, as in the case of the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, they are in the “contact group” of states working-in with it, in Afghanistan.

Comment from the host country:

“The American President Barak Obama must do some teaching with the allies. He will have to explain America’s new Regional strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan (more troops, more civil aid, and the engagement of other regional powers) — and remind them of their duties …”

Le Monde (Paris), “La cohesion de l’Alliance Atlantique a l’epreuve de l’Afghanistan” (Afghanistan putting unity of the Atlantic Alliance to the test), 3.4.09., (4.4.09).