On the eve of President Obama’s address to the nation outlining his strategy for Afghanistan, the news wires and blogs are brimming with both facts and speculation about what the president will say.
There have been sufficient leaks to make it a very fair speculation that “about 30,000” additional troops will be sent to Afghanistan over the next 12 to 18 months.
In previous posts I mentioned that NATO might send an additional 6,000 troops.
I also wrote that the president “will emphasize what he sees as the obligations and roles of our international partners in this joint effort. America expects nothing less from Afghanistan and from our allies.”
According to the New York Times, the president spent much of today talking to allied leaders: “He spoke for 40 minutes with the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who signaled that France was not in a position to commit more troops.” France presently has 3,750 soldiers and 150 police officers in Afghanistan.
According to the Times, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said today that Britain would send 500 additional troops to Afghanistan in early December. This will bring the British troop strength in Afghanistan to 10,000.
Mr. Obama also spoke with President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia and met at the White House with Kevin Rudd, the prime minister of Australia.
It appears that it is going to be very difficult to get our NATO allies to step up to the plate in Afghanistan. An additional 6,000 NATO troops might be a pipe dream. We’ll have to wait for official (and unofficial) reactions from Europe after the president makes his case tomorrow night.
Some European newspapers are already prognosticating.
Watching America will publish several European reactions in the coming days.
I am presently translating one such prediction that appeared in the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant on Friday.
It is titled “Obama’s Litmus Test,” and it discusses the political and military realities in Afghanistan and NATO’s participation in that war.
As to tomorrow’s announcement, the author says:
The war in Afghanistan is a litmus test for NATO, and now also for the leadership of Barack Obama. After three months of deliberation – a process much too long that as such has sown doubts about the will and decisiveness of the president – he will next Tuesday via a televised announcement reveal how he thinks he will bring “his” war of necessity to a successful ending.
The author’s conclusion is ominous:
One has it from good sources that Obama likely will aim to strengthen the U.S. forces with 30,000 men. Also, because of the necessary political backing, the Europeans will have to provide 10,000 additional troops.
The latter is an understandable U.S. desire, but it’s unlikely that Europe on balance will contribute such a number. This is the big disappointment since Obama took office: as the anti-Bush, he could make a much greater appeal to NATO allies, but in fact, that turns out to be hardly the case.
In spite of all the verbal expressions of support, most European countries already had very little appetite for Afghanistan when the mission was going relatively smoothly. Now that the situation has become grimmer and more difficult, it only decreases the appetite. When the going gets tough, the tough get going, is an American proverb. This will never be a European motto.
Some will see this as a compliment to Americans, some will not.
For the full translated Volkskrant article click here
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.