By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
March 25, 2009 - The United States has been in close consultation with NATO allies as it completes an evaluation of the strategy in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama said today. After a meeting at the White House with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the president said the United States expects to share its analysis with alliance counterparts. A defense official this month said the review is likely to be distributed among allies ahead of the NATO summit in early April.
"We believe that we are going to be able to ensure that the NATO members who've made so many sacrifices and have been working so hard already are reinvigorated, and that the coordination that's going to be taking place will make it even more effective for us as we complete a successful NATO mission," Obama said of the Afghan strategy review.
The summit, to take place April 3 and 4 in Strasbourg, France, and Kehl, Germany, also coincides with the alliance's 60th anniversary, which Obama said is a testament to NATO's quality.
"It is a testimony to the strength of the trans-Atlantic alliance, a testimony to the effectiveness of NATO in creating stability and peace and prosperity, laying the groundwork for so much that has taken place over the last several years," he said.
Obama said he and de Hoop Scheffer are confident that the NATO summit could produce new processes to make the alliance stronger and more effectively coordinate efforts in Afghanistan.
The summit's agenda also could include issues beyond the scope of the NATO mission in Afghanistan.
"We have a set of challenges that require NATO to shift from the 20th century to the 21st century; issues of terrorism, failed states, nuclear proliferation, a whole host of new challenges as well as the traditional role that NATO has played in preserving the territorial integrity of NATO members," Obama said.
In their meeting today, the president and the secretary general also discussed the role NATO plays regarding Russia, and how the Obama administration seeks to reset the relationship between Washington and Moscow.
"My administration is seeking a reset of the relationship with Russia, but in a way that's consistent with NATO membership and consistent with the need to send a clear signal throughout Europe that we are going to continue to abide by the central belief that countries who seek and aspire to join NATO are able to join NATO," Obama said.
De Hoop Scheffer noted that the 60th anniversary is a time to reflect on past successes, but also to look ahead, especially concerning Afghanistan, which he called NATO's most important operational priority.
"In Afghanistan, there are still major challenges," he said. "Many things are going right, but many things are not going right."