Obama to ask NATO allies for more help

April 3, 2009 7:49:00 PM PDT
The president has just finished pressing Europe's leaders to do more to stimulate their economies. Now he is facing an even tougher challenge: asking them for more help in Afghanistan.

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Mr. Obama is preparing for Saturday's NATO meeting in Germany. The president hopes to convince German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other NATO allies to increase their presence in Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama got a warm welcome from the citizens of Strasbourg. He met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and then held a town meeting where he tried to explain his requests for more NATO forces in Afghanistan.

"This is a mission that tests whether nations can come together in common purpose, on behalf of our common security," Mr. Obama said.

But European leaders like Sarkozy have been reluctant to commit more forces to a politically unpopular conflict.

"Levels of personal insecurity are rising, the Karzi administration is extremely unpopular," William Cole, a senior director at the Asia Foundation said.

Friday in San Francisco, experts on Afghanistan spoke at the annual World Affairs Council conference.

Stephen Krasner, former director of policy planning at the State Department under President Bush says the U.S. could go it alone.

"It would be better if they were there, it's not critical; the resources they can bring have been limited and their willingness to accept casualties has been very limited," Professor Stephen Krasner, a former State Department official said.

But Cole strongly disagrees, saying NATO's involvement is key to winning the hearts and minds of the Afghans and the Muslim world.

"To the extent that this is an international and is and is seen as an international effort, that vastly improves the perceptions on the ground," Cole said.

But he thinks the likelihood of the president getting significant fighting help out of Saturday's meeting is between slim and none.

"They just don't want to get involved in an open ended war," President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations Leslie Gelb said.

Gelb thinks Mr. Obama will try another approach.

"He's looking to find other ways of bringing them into a long term commitment to build up Afghanistan, to resist international terrorism, but I think they're going to even be resistant to that," Gelb said.

ABC White House correspondent Jake Tapper, who is traveling with the president, says administration officials are telling him Germany will likely help with Afghan election security and the army's trust fund, while French President Sarkozy will green light money and training for Afghan police.

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