By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
April 4, 2009 - President Barack Obama today said a pledge by NATO allies to contribute some 5,000 more personnel to Afghanistan represents "a strong down payment" on the mission and in NATO's future. Obama said the two-day summit that wraps up in Strasbourg, Germany, today was not intended to produce such promises from member countries.
"This was not a pledging conference, and yet we already received the kinds of commitments that historically you don't see at a conference like this," he said at a news conference. "What was pledged here today was significant."
NATO allies have offered to finance and provide more security -- including 3,000 more personnel -- for the Afghan election in August, to send 300 additional military trainers and mentors, and 70 NATO embedded training teams to help grow the Afghan national army. Other pledges include $500 million for civilian assistance and $100 million in support of the Afghan army, he said.
"We'll need more resources and a sustained effort to achieve our ultimate goals," he said. "But these commitments of troops trainers and civilians represent a strong down payment on the future of our mission in Afghanistan and on the future of NATO."
Obama characterized these promises as reflecting NATO allies' broad support of a new strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan that the Obama Administration unveiled last week.
"I think it's an indication that this alliance is committed to achieving the focused goals that we've set out in Afghanistan, I think that you're not going to see a division between allies in terms of how we approach the situation," he said.
The president briefed NATO representatives on the new strategy today ahead of the news conference. Reversing Taliban gains and securing the population, helping to build a self-reliant Afghan security force, and providing a secure environment in which Afghan governance and development programs can take root and grow are some of the strategy's top priorities.
Carrying out the mission in Afghanistan are roughly 32,000 NATO forces in Afghanistan, complemented by about 38,000 American troops with the deployment of additional forces to begin in late spring.
"What we anticipate is not only that we will see additional resources brought to bear on the strategy, but that also we will have established a baseline of honesty and clarity about our purpose so that it will be much more difficult for each of us in NATO to try to avoid or shirk the serious responsibilities that are involved in accomplishing our mission," he said.
Obama characterized the summit meeting as very productive. He pledged support for the unanimously elected Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen as the next secretary general of NATO, and welcomed new allies Albania and Croatia, and praised France's renewed integration into the alliance.
Speaking on NATO's 60th anniversary, Obama recounted some of the alliance's past successes, but warned against resting on its laurels.
"While we celebrate NATO's achievements, we can't rest upon them; the 21st century has ushered in a new era of global threats," he said. "To meet these dangers, the alliance must renew and reform itself once more."