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Bush Prepares for NATO Summit

U.S. President George Bush visits Europe in the coming week for a summit with leaders of the NATO alliance. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns will travel with the president and reports on what is expected from the meeting in Latvia.

Afghanistan tops the agenda at the NATO summit as the Cold War alliance now leads the international force that's backing the government of Hamid Karzai.

Since U.S. troops toppled the former Taleban government in Afghanistan four years ago, Islamic militants there have regrouped, engaging in sometimes heavy fighting with NATO forces, especially in the south.

Judy Ansley, the senior director for European Affairs at the White House National Security Council, says the mission in Afghanistan is going "fine," and the NATO summit is a chance for President Bush to meet with other leaders to ensure that it continues moving forward.

"Clearly, there have been some challenges with the expansion in the south during the summer, where NATO has been challenged by the Taleban,” she said. “But NATO has performed very well. And the main thing now is to make sure that the alliance remains committed to this mission, which is important not only to Afghanistan but to our security in the West, and sees it through to completion."

Ansley says President Bush sees Afghanistan as part of a broader role for NATO in addressing security concerns outside its traditional European focus.

"If you look to the threats of the 21st century, most of them are not right on the borders of Europe as they used to be during the Cold War,” she added. “They are coming from farther away. I think Afghanistan is a perfect example. You have a terrorist threat that has already hit our shores, obviously will threaten NATO and NATO member nations again if we don't deal with it there."

With 11 countries outside the NATO alliance joining member troops in Afghanistan, Ansley says President Bush believes there should be a longer-term commitment to better integrate some non-NATO members into alliance planning.

At the Latvian summit, NATO leaders are expected to invite Japan, Australia, South Korea, Sweden, and Finland to cooperate more closely on training, including special operations forces.

There is also expected to be a deal through which 14 NATO members plus Sweden will buy U.S. C-17 aircraft to better transport troops and material as part of a coordinated initiative on strategic airlift.

Macedonia, Croatia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Georgia are hoping to join the alliance. Ansley says there is no expectation that the Riga summit will announce any new members.

Following that meeting, President Bush will fly to Jordan for talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. U.S. National Security Advisor Steve Hadley says the Bush administration is not looking for what he calls a "big, bold announcement" from those talks.

Instead, the two men will discuss a joint commission established to speed the transfer of more responsibility to the Iraqi government and how regional states can better support it.