It has been a consistent and (at least in Europe) largely overlooked part of President Obama's plans to fight the war in Afghanistan that Europe should do more. Even as the adulatory crowds cheered him in Berlin last Summer, it was clear that he was going to ask European leaders for help that would not be popular with their publics. And in Strasbourg Obama took that message to a Town Hall-style meeting.
The President explained that Afghanistan matters to the US because of the 9/11 attacks, and that Europe has just a s much interest as the US in ensuring that Afghanistan cannot be the base for such attacks again. And then, in a blunt statement, he said that Europe should not simply expect the United States to shoulder that burden alone. We should not because this is a joint problem and it requires joint effort. Then he added that the closure of Guantanamo, and an end to torture by the US, in turn, will allow the Europeans, I think, to feel good about our joint efforts, and also not to have excuses not to participate in those joint efforts.
This is the most direct appeal for support and additional troops for ISAF that the President has made, but it fell largely on deaf ears. Spain has said it will add a small number of troops for training purposes. Belgium will add two F-16 aircraft and a handful of soldiers. The UK will add a few hundred troops in the run-up to this summer's elections. (Even that was less than the MOD had planned for, they were expecting to send 2,000) France refused to add to its contingent of forces, and a number of other countries (Germany, Italy, Poland, Canada and Denmark)are considering their options. In truth, the President and his team have given up on getting more European troops for the present. There is a an underlying mood of frustration in Obama's team on this, but they don't want the Summit ruined over the question.
In the short term the cracks will be papered over. The controversy over the new Afghan law limiting women's rights and legalising rape in marriage has provided an excuse for Europeans to say they can't commit troops to defending a government that supports such a blatant abuse of human rights. But in the longer term, American scepticism about NATO is being reinforced and the Alliance weakened by Europe's actions.
Obama's Remarks on Afghanistan in Full
And as we restore our common prosperity, we must stand up for our common security. As we meet here today, NATO has still embarked on its first mission overseas in Afghanistan, and my administration has just completed a review of our policy in that region.
Now, I understand that this war has been long. Our allies have already contributed greatly to this endeavor. You've sent your sons and daughters to fight alongside ours, and we honor and respect their service and sacrifice.
And I also know that there's some who have asked questions about why are we still in Afghanistan? What does this mean? What's its purpose? Understand we would not deploy our own troops if this mission was not indispensable to our common security. As President, I can tell you there's no decision more difficult, there's no duty more painful, than signing a letter to the family of somebody who has died in war.
So I understand that there is doubt about this war in Europe. There's doubt at times even in the United States. But know this: The United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan. We were attacked by an al Qaeda network that killed thousands on American soil, including French and Germans. Along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, those terrorists are still plotting today. And they're -- if there is another al Qaeda attack, it is just as likely, if not more, that it will be here in Europe in a European city.
So I've made a commitment to Afghanistan, and I've asked our NATO partners for more civilian and military support and assistance. We do this with a clear purpose: to root out the terrorists who threaten all of us, to train the Afghan people to sustain their own security and to help them advance their own opportunity, and to quicken the day when our troops come home.
We have no interest in occupying Afghanistan. We have more than enough to do in rebuilding America. (Applause.) But this is a mission that tests whether nations can come together in common purpose on behalf of our common security. That's what we did together in the 20th century. And now we need an alliance that is even stronger than when it brought down a mighty wall in Berlin.
And then in answer to a follow-up question from the audience he made his major point.
So here's the bottom line. The United States has reviewed and redesigned its approach to Afghanistan. We believe that we cannot just win militarily. We have to win through development aid. We have to win through increasing the capacity of the Afghan government to provide basic services to its people and to uphold rule of law. We have to work with the Pakistani government so that they are more trusted by their population and have more control so that they can then go -- help us go after these terrorists. We have to encourage diplomacy in the region.
So it can't just be a military strategy and we will be in partnership with Europe on the development side and on the diplomatic side. But there will be a military component to it, and Europe should not simply expect the United States to shoulder that burden alone. We should not because this is a joint problem and it requires joint effort.
So we are going to conduct our operations in a way that reflect our best selves and make sure that we are proud. And that, in turn, will allow the Europeans, I think, to feel good about our joint efforts, and also not to have excuses not to participate in those joint efforts. All right?