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Europe-NATO React Positively to Obama Troop Surge

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown welcomes the increase, which will bring US troops strength in Afghanistan to around 100,000

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There has been initial positive reaction from Europe and NATO to President Barack Obama's announcement that he will send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban and al Qaida.  

It was a long and eagerly-awaited decision - certainly in Britain, the second-largest contributor of troops to Afghanistan.

"As Commander in Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan," said President Obama.  "After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home."

Speaking in the House of Commons Wednesday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown welcomed the increase, which will bring U.S. troops strength in Afghanistan to around 100,000.

"I think the whole House will welcome the announcement by President Obama - both of the objectives to the mission in relation to the Taliban and in relation to al Qaida, but also the numbers of troops, a very substantial part of which will go into Helmand province and will be an assistance in dealing with the Taliban insurgency there," said Mr. brown.

Britain has 9,500 troops in Afghanistan, including Special Forces, and Mr. Brown promised 500 more earlier in the week.

But it is not just U.S. and British forces involved, about 40 other countries have sent troops under the banner of NATO.
 
In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed President Obama's announcement.

"I think it is a right decision for Afghanistan and for NATO.  This is not a U.S. mission alone," he said. "There are 43 countries on the ground under NATO command and I am confident that other allies and partners will also make a substantial increase in their contributions."

The war in Afghanistan has come at a cost.  More than 1,500 foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan since the war started in 2001; more than 900 of them American.

While support for the troops generally remains high, opinion polls show support for the war does not, indicating uncertainty about the ability to succeed and get out have been voiced openly - and not just in Britain. 

To many, President Obama's announcement that U.S. troops would begin coming home by mid 2011 will be welcome.  But, security analyst David Livingstone of London's Chatham House research center says hard deadlines can spell problems.

"It may well be that the Taliban will redouble their efforts to put political pressure by making that date unachievable and therefore create some instability in public perception of how this campaign is going to be fought in the longer term," said Livingstone.

President Obama made clear the United States cannot go it alone.

"Our friends have fought and bled and died alongside us in Afghanistan.  Now, we must come together to end this war successfully," said Mr. Obama. "For what is at stake is not simply a test of NATO's credibility - what is at stake is the security of our Allies, and the common security of the world."

The NATO Secretary General says he is confident more troops will be sent.  But European leaders have been reluctant to make firm new pledges.  The issue is a top agenda item when alliance foreign ministers meet this week in Brussels.

Talks are to continue January 28 at a special summit on Afghanistan in London. 

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