President Obama is presenting his new strategy for Afghanistan at NATO's 60th anniversary strategy in France and Germany. European leaders have praised the new strategy, though they remain reluctant to contribute significantly more troops to the Afghanistan war. The World's Gerry Hadden reports.
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KATY CLARK: I'm Katy Clark and this is The World. President Obama spent yesterday in London speaking with world leaders about the ailing economy. Today, the focus is NATO. President Obama is presenting his new strategy for the war in Afghanistan at NATO's 60th anniversary summit in France and Germany. European leaders pledged support for the new US strategy, though they remain reluctant to send more troops. The World's Gerry Hadden reports.
GERRY HADDEN: In public at least, President Obama stressed that NATO members were more or less on the same page in Afghanistan. After a closed-door meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Mr. Obama said today that America's European allies understand the risks of failure in Afghanistan.
OBAMA: I've not had to drag France kicking and screaming into Afghanistan because France recognizes that having Al Qaeda operate safe havens that can be used to launch attacks is a threat not just to the United States but to Europe. In fact, it is probably more likely that Al Qaeda would be able to launch a serious terrorist attack in Europe than in the United States because of proximity.
HADDEN: President Obama's focus on Al Qaeda here may play well among reluctant allies more worried about terrorism at home than the Taliban. Also going over well is Mr. Obama's new Afghanistan strategy that puts reconstruction and training on the same level as military fighting. That change comes in part as the US appears to recognize that Europe is unlikely to contribute more combat troops. For one, the Afghanistan war is unpopular among European voters. And today, NATO's outgoing Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said another complication has arisen: some proposed new Afghan laws. One, for example, he said, would sanction rape within marriage.
DE HOOP SCHEFFER: How can I defend this, or how can the British forces defend this or the Canadian forces or the Dutch forces, that our boys and girls are dying there in defense of universal values, and you see a law almost come into effect which fundamentally violates women's rights and general human rights. Then I have a problem explaining to a critical public audience in Europe why I'm sending the guys to the Hindu Kush.
HADDEN: Part of that critical public audience has been protesting in the streets outside the NATO meeting hall since yesterday. Tens of thousands, like Jung Meller, have been calling on NATO to get out of Afghanistan and disband altogether.
MELLER: We want to shut down NATO and we want to show this with our actions of civil disobedience. That means we step in the way, we do this with our bodies and we think protesting is not enough against war. We have to make a stronger stand.
HADDEN: Some have done so â€“ smashing shop windows, burning trash containers, and fighting with police. But mostly French security forces are keeping the protesters far from the NATO summit itself. Back inside this evening, German Chancellor Angela Merkel emerged from talks with President Obama, affirming her commitment to the Afghanistan operation.
ANGELA MERKEL: We, as the Federal Republic of Germany, would like to contribute to Afghanistan, and we are aware of our responsibilities regarding training of the police, for example.
HADDEN: But like French President Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday, Chancellor Merkel stopped short of offering more combat troops. So for the time being, it looks like the US and just a handful of allies will bear the brunt of the fighting. For The World, I'm Gerry Hadden.
CLARK: We'll have more on Afghanistan later in the program, including a look back at the ill-fated Soviet occupation.