fThe Beeb has a skim-the-surface report on the NATO 60th anniversary summit in Strasbourg. Reading between the lines, one can feel the fierce emotion and backroom bargaining, not to mention the fires set by Antifa mobs as they made their presence felt.
Nato has agreed to boost troop numbers to cover the Afghan presidential election in August, outgoing alliance chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has said.
US President Barack Obama said his alliance partners would deploy about 5,000 troops and trainers “to advance [Washington’s] new strategy”.
Washington’s new strategy needed a whole lot more than five thousand troops, but that’s all it managed to get this time around, and even that low number includes some double-accounting.
Here’s the usual boilerplate:
“We will deploy the forces necessary to support the upcoming elections in Afghanistan,” Mr de Hoop Scheffer told the news conference after the summit.
Nato was also providing more trainers and mentors for the Afghan army and police, he said.
“The bottom line is that when it comes to Afghanistan, this summit, and this alliance, have delivered,” Mr de Hoop Scheffer added.
Right. And if you believe that, Mr de Hoop Scheffer has a few burning buildings he’ll let you have real cheap.
President Obama wanted some strong troop commitment. Instead, all he got (as they say around here) was a firm handshake and a big smile.
Europe is willing to provide security for the Afghanistan elections and some military training. But more soldiers in the northern provinces. It doesn’t seem so. Meeting the Taliban head on? Not with fresh troops, thank you.
Meanwhile, the Antifa anarchists kept the police busy, to the tune of millions of dollars in security coverage for Strasbourg. Police units were brought in from all over France:
They set a hotel and a customs house on fire and three columns of smoke could be seen rising over the Europe Bridge area of the French city, across from the small town of Kehl in Germany, where part of the summit was held.
At least 25 people were arrested, adding to dozens detained in the run-up to the gathering.
Between 10,000 and 30,000 demonstrators were involved in the anti-Nato protests, according to French news agency AFP.
“I am pleased that our NATO allies pledged their strong and unanimous support for our new strategy,” Obama said as he wrapped up the two-day summit, his second international meeting of the week after an economic summit in London.
It was unclear, however, exactly how much Obama won at the gathering of the 28-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Some of the troops included in the announcement already had been committed heading into the summit. And Obama would not say how many of the new troops would be new forces or merely reinforcements.
White House aides said the deal includes a pledge of 3,000 troops to help safeguard Afghanistan’s Aug. 20 national elections, including 900 from the United Kingdom, 600 from Germany and 600 from Spain.
The 3,000 additional international troops would join 17,000 new U.S. troops to meet commanders’ request for 20,000 more troops to secure the elections, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.
Other allies, inside and outside the NATO alliance, also pledged between 1,400 and 2,000 troops to train Afghan Army units and police, including 300 to 400 from France, 100 from Italy and the rest from nine other countries.
They will be dispatched in “operational mentoring liaison teams” of 20 to 40 trainers each to go into the field with Afghan units.
Allies also pledged $100 million for a trust fund to finance training, including $57 million from Germany, according to Gibbs.
Meanwhile, a word from Mr. Brown, without which no NATO meeting would be complete:
“I am pleased to say that a large number of countries have announced that they will provide additional support: Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Poland, Turkey and Croatia have joined Germany, who have already made similar announcements,” he said at the end of the summit.
“That means that burden-sharing over these next few critical months is a reality.”
Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel commended Mr Obama’s new strategy for Afghanistan, saying: “It fits very well with what we all think.”
Right. “Burden-sharing” is a reality for a few months. That’s reassuring.
Leaving aside the “new strategy”, take a look at the current troop deployments from Nato’s pdf, here. That’s some burden-sharing.
There will be more than 70,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, mostly under Nato command. Mr Obama is to send 21,000 additional US troops, while considering a further deployment of 10,000.
Meanwhile, Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark will take over as head of NATO in August. Mr. Rasmussen isn’t everyone’s cup of tea:
He was only appointed after a day of sometimes frantic diplomatic exchanges, BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus reports from Strasbourg.
Turkey appeared determined to derail the candidacy of a man backed by all the other Nato allies, seeing Mr Rasmussen as insufficiently sensitive to Muslim concerns after the 2005 Prophet Muhammad cartoon row.
The Turkish government was also angered by the operation of a pro-Kurdish television station on Danish soil but the pressure on Turkey was enormous, our correspondent says.
His election was confirmed by Mr de Hoop Scheffer who said:
“You know that there has been discussion over the past 36 hours but the fact that we are standing here next to each other means a solution has been found also for the concerns expressed by Turkey, and we all very much agree and are unanimous.”
Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country had agreed to drop its opposition to Mr Rasmussen’s candidacy after receiving unspecified “guarantees” from President Obama.
Maybe Mr. Obama plans to visit Turkey and give Erdogan his own personal curtsy.
The New York Times has more details on Obama’s “new strategy”, which gives some idea why NATO allies are less than enthusiastic:
…NATO leaders on Saturday gave a tepid troop commitment to President Obama’s escalating campaign in Afghanistan, mostly committing soldiers only to a temporary security duty.
To a global audience concerned with an exit strategy, Mr. Obama used his most explicit language yet in detailing a narrowed war mission: emphasizing intense action against Al Qaeda even above instilling Western democracy and rights sensibilities.
“We want to do everything we can to encourage and promote rule of law, human rights, the education of women and girls in Afghanistan, economic development, infrastructure development,” he said. “But I also want people to understand that the first reason we are there is to root out Al Qaeda, so that they cannot attack members of the alliance.”
Answering a reporter’s question about whether the troop escalation would be contingent on whether the Afghan government rescinded a proposed family law that the United Nations has likened to legalizing rape within marriage , Mr. Obama replied that the law should not deter the United States from its military goal.
“I think this law is abhorrent. Certainly the views of this administration have been and will be communicated to the Karzai government,” he said. But he added, repeating for emphasis: “I want everybody to understand that our focus is to defeat Al Qaeda.”
To which Europe gave lukewarm support. As the Times noted:
For Mr. Obama, in many ways, the two months since he took office have been a reality check on the difference between Europe’s vocal support and action.
In January, Obama administration officials expressed optimism that they would receive strong backing from European allies on a large number of additional troops for Afghanistan.
Despite a glowing reception and widespread praise for Mr. Obama’s style and aims, his calls for a more lasting European troop increase for Afghanistan were politely brushed aside, as they had been in negotiations leading up to the meeting.
Well, the learning curve for dealing with Europe is a steep one. In eight years, Bill Clinton skated by because his foreign policy was nil. For the following eight years, Bush was roundly loathed for actually doing something about the 9/11 attack on New York City.
Mr. Obama has dropped the Bush doctrine of “nation building” for a more straightforward “kill them where they hide and the rest of us will be safer”.
Sadly, I can’t help but agree with this approach. But the only way to have arrived at this conclusion is to have gone through what we did in Iraq to see how intractable these “nations” are when it comes to understanding and accepting a polity based on the rule of law.
The Taliban and its camp followers cannot be permitted to continue on with the degradation they plan for their own and for the rest of us. If we don’t fight, they will bring the fight to us. If we do not “interfere” they will have Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in short order. From there anything can happen.
In Strasbourg, President Obama got little but reassurance. On the other hand, France has rejoined NATO, so it surely sees the handwriting (in Arabic or Pashtun) on the wall. I have no doubt the President will return to NATO again, as things become hotter.
By “hotter” I mean if there is a major terrorist attack in Europe, that may change perceptions. Of course, there was 7/7 in London, so we know it will have to be something huge to get their further commitment.