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July 24, 2008

Obama sends a message to Germany on Afghanistan
Posted by Max Bergmann

Midway through his speech in Berlin, Obama brought up the awkward subject of European efforts in Afghanistan. Germans have become very opposed to the war in Afghanistan as well as Iraq. CRS noted that support for the war in Afghanistan declined to just 34 percent in Germany. The Germans continue to maintain strict caveats on their troop deployments which prevents them from being deployed into intense combat. Germany has also resisted calls from Secretary Gates among others to increase their meager 3,200 troop deployment and to remove the caveats on their use. But Obama did not shy away from confronting Germany and Europe on this issue.

This is the moment when we must renew our resolve to rout the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan, and the traffickers who sell drugs on your streets.  No one welcomes war. I recognize the enormous difficulties in Afghanistan.  But my country and yours have a stake in seeing that NATO’s first mission beyond Europe’s borders is a success. For the people of Afghanistan, and for our shared security, the work must be done.  America cannot do this alone.  The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation.  We have too much at stake to turn back now.

Part of the reluctance of Germany to do more in Afghanistan is that it has been tainted by the war in Iraq. As Secretary Gates acknowledged, linking Iraq and Afghanistan under one rubric of the "war on terror" has led many in Europe to view them both as Bush's wars and as a result severely lowered the popularity of the Afghanistan mission. The relationship with Europe will no doubt improve greatly with an Obama administration, but regaining the trust of Europe and convincing to do more in Afghanistan will be quite a challenge.


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Bosnia and Kosovo weren't Bush's wars, and the Germans didn't pull their weight there either.

It's good to know that Sen. Obama's position on this subject, interestingly somewhat reminiscent of things Sen. McCain has said in Europe in the past, recognizes that some of our problems with European allies are not simply products of insufficiently fulsome American expressions of goodwill and respect for European morality.

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