Friday, February 08, 2008
Europe Anger Over US War in Iraq
Gates cites Europe's anger over Iraq war
By ROBERT BURNS Fri Feb 8, 6:22 PM ET
MUNICH, Germany - Lingering anger inGates said he would attempt in a speech here Sunday at an international security conference to decouple perceptions of the Iraq war, in which over the U.S. invasion of Iraq explains why some allies are reluctant to heed U.S. calls for more , said Friday. It was his first public acknowledgment of such a link to the Iraq war. has no fighting role, from views of , where NATO is in charge of the fighting but has fallen short on commanders' requests for more troops.
On a flight tofrom , where he attended two days of NATO talks dominated by Afghanistan, Gates associated with what lay behind Europe's general skepticism about fighting in Afghanistan.
"From our perspective, I worry that for many Europeans the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are confused," he told reporters traveling with him, implicitly acknowledging a political cost of the Iraq invasion.
"I think they combine the two," he added. "Many of them I think have a problem with our involvement in Iraq and project that to Afghanistan and don't understand the very different — for them — very different kind of threat" posed byin Afghanistan, as opposed to the militant group in Iraq that goes by the same name and is thought to be led by foreign terrorists linked to al-Qaida.
, which is hosting the Munich conference and which has refused Gates' explicit appeals to send combat forces to southern Afghanistan, and were among the most vocal opponents of the Iraq invasion prior to the war. has been the most supportive, and it has the second-largest .
Despite earlier refusals, France now is considering sending troops to join the fight against thein southern Afghanistan after 's appeal for 1,000 extra forces to support its beleaguered force in volatile . French officials cautioned that it was unlikely Paris would provide all the troops Canada is seeking and said a decision was unlikely before April, when NATO leaders meet for a summit in .
Such a move could ease tensions in, where a rift has emerged between nations such as the United States, Canada and Britain who have troops in the south, and those like France, Germany and whose units operates in the relative safety of north and west Afghanistan.
The Bush administration was not expecting to see a dramatic increase in troop contributions by NATO members, said a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. But the official said it's possible that NATO members, perhaps before or at the April summit, would make valuable contributions in other ways, such as providing civilian police trainers.
NATO, through its International Security Assistance Force, is in charge of the war, although the top commander is an American, Army Gen. Daniel McNeill, and the United States is the biggest provider of troops. Of the 42,000 total troops, about 14,000 are American, plus the United States has another 13,000 operating separately in eastern Afghanistan hunting terrorists and training Afghan forces.
Gates suggested that while not all Europeans see the various insurgent elements inas part of the international terror problem, they might be persuaded on the issue of Afghanistan, which was a refuge for 's network and a launching pad for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Gates has argued that if Afghanistan were allowed to fail, it could again become a haven for al-Qaida and thatwould be one its top targets.
"Our view, from the U.S. standpoint, is that al-Qaida in Iraq is not just a problem for Iraq, but let's leave that aside," he said. "I want to focus on why al-Qaida in Afghanistan and failure in Afghanistan would be a security problem for Europe."
As he has previously, Gates also made the point that some European allies have coalition governments with little political maneuvering room on such a sensitive topic as Afghanistan. He also praised those allied countries which have contributed combat troops as well as those helping in other ways.
He noted news reports thatmight be willing to send combat troops into southern Afghanistan and he said this would be a welcome addition.
He said none of the allies made commitments to provide more troops in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, he said the discussions were cordial and that he was encouraged by what he described as an impression that some defense ministers are considering "what more they might be able to do" on the troop issue.
Gates said that parts of his speech on Sunday would be "directed at Europeans, not their governments, in an effort to try to explain why their security is tied to success in Afghanistan" and how the outcome in Afghanistan could affect the future of the NATO alliance, which originally was designed to protect Europe, the United States andagainst a military threat by the former Soviet Union.
In congressional testimony on Wednesday, Gates expressed a fear thatcould devolve into a "two-tiered alliance," with some member countries doing the fighting in NATO's name and others refusing.
"I remain concerned about that," Gates said in the in-flight interview. "I don't think we're there at this point. I'm not sure we're even really close. But I see it out there in the more distant future if ... these current conditions continue well into the future and get worse."
Gates was asked about the possibility that his direct appeal to Europeans on the issue of anthreat to their homelands might backfire.
"There always is a risk it will be counterproductive," he replied. "I am going to try and do this in a very measured way so that I don't come across as (saying), `The sky is falling.'"
Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report from Washington.
Labels: Europe-anger-US war Iraq
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