Sunday, 5 April 2009

Obama on NATO and Afghanistan

President Obama spoke at some length about the NATO endorsement of his plan for Afghanistan during his press conference following the President spoke at length about his new plan for Afghanistan announced a week ago and the agreements reached in the meeting:

We start from a simple premise: For years, our efforts in Afghanistan have lacked the resources needed to achieve our goals. And that's why the United States has recommitted itself to a clear and focused goal -- to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.

This effort cannot be America's alone. All of NATO understands that al Qaeda is a threat to all of us, and that this collective security effort must achieve its goals. And as a signal of that commitment, I am pleased that our NATO allies pledged their strong and unanimous support for our new strategy. Keep in mind it was only just a week ago that we announced this new approach. But already with Secretary Clinton's work at The Hague and with the success at today's summit we've started to match real resources to achieve our goals.

We're leaving Strasbourg and Kehl with concrete commitments on NATO support. Our allies and partners have already agreed to provide approximately 5,000 troops and trainers to advance our new strategy, as well as increased civilian assistance. To support critical elections for August 20th, NATO will fully resource our election support force to maximize security. And our allies have committed additional funds to an Afghan elections trust fund that will provide the necessary resources for free and fair elections.

To accelerate and enhance our training of Afghan security forces, a new NATO mission, a new NATO training mission, will focus on high-level support for Afghan army, and training and mentoring for the Afghan police. And many of our allies and partners have also pledged support for a new trust fund to sustain Afghan national armies going forward.

And to strengthen Afghan institutions and advance opportunity for the Afghan people, we are working with our NATO allies and partners to achieve substantial increases in non-military assistance and to provide the kind of doctors, engineers, educators and agricultural specialists that are needed to make a difference on the ground.

NATO has agreed the plan, but it is far from clear that the resources will be made available to carry it through. If Europe doesn't come through then the US will act increasingly on its own, and NATO will be weakened. There is also a risk that the plan will not work, and NATO will be weakened. Obama is forcing the pace, and Europe will have to follow.

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