President Bush has called for the full commitment of the NATO alliance to defeat a resurgent Taleban in Afghanistan. Mr. Bush made the appeal in a wide ranging speech in Riga, Latvia, where he attended a NATO summit that finished Wednesday.
Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga welcomed President Bush to the podium, where he delivered a wide-ranging speech about the challenges facing the NATO alliance. One major challenge he touched on is Afghanistan. "Taleban and al-Qaida fighters, and drug fighters and criminal elements and local warlords remain active and committed to destroying democracy in Afghanistan. Defeating them will require the full commitment of our alliance. For NATO to succeed, the commanders on the ground must have the resources and flexibility they need to do their jobs."
NATO has some 32,000 troops in Afghanistan, battling a resurgent Talelban. But only a few countries, including Britain, Canada, the United States and the Netherlands, are doing most of the fighting in the dangerous southern provinces. Other members have put restrictions, or "caveats", on how their forces can be used.
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer complained about this in Riga -- urging more support for the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF: "We must resource ISAF properly. It is not acceptable that our mission in the south still lacks 20 percent of its combined joint statement of requirements. I have spoken out repeatedly, and I will do it again here this morning, about national caveats that take away a commander's flexibility and undermine our operational effectiveness."
Afghanistan and the expansion of NATO to include other countries are among the topics of discussion at this summit, which holds a formal session Wednesday. In his speech, President Bush expressed support for admitting all European democracies that want to be a part of NATO.
“Here in Riga, allies will make clear that the door to NATO membership remains open. And in our next summit in 2008 we hope to issue additional invitations to nations that are ready for membership. Today, Croatia, Macedonia and Albania are all participating in NATO's membership action plan and the United States supports their aspirations to join the Atlantic Alliance."
After the summitended Wednesday, President Bush traveled to Jordan for discussions about Iraq and the Middle East.