NATO to bear bur­den for ‘make-or-break’ Afghan mis­sion

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Stephen Di­nan

TALLINN, Es­to­nia — Pres­i­dent Bush on Nov. 28 chal­lenged NATO mem­bers to boost their own de­fense spend­ing and be will­ing to ac­cep­trough­com­bat­as­sign­ments,ar­gu­ing that the al­liance is now on a make-or-break mis­sion in Afghanistan.

“To suc­ceed in Afghanistan, NATOal­lies­must­provide­the­forces NATO mil­i­tary com­man­ders re­quire,” the pres­i­dent said in Es­to­nia, be­fore head­ing to Latvia for a sum­mit to chart the next two years’ course for the North At­lantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion. “Mem­ber na­tions must ac­cept dif­fi­cult as­sign­ments if we ex­pect to be suc­cess­ful.”

Mr. Bush also blamed al Qaeda for the in­creased vi­o­lence in Iraq, and vowed not to with­draw troops from that na­tion as he pre­pared to meet with Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Nourial-Ma­liki­inJor­danonNov.29.

“There’s a lot of sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence tak­ing place — fo­mented, in my opin­ion, be­cause of the at­tacks by al Qaeda caus­ing peo­ple to seek reprisal,” Mr. Bush said at a press con­fer­ence with Es­to­nian Pres­i­dent Toomas Hen­drik Ilves.

In the mid­dle of a four-day in­ter­na­tional trip to deal with the twin wars to which he has com­mit­ted U.S. troops, Mr. Bush finds him­self at the limit of mil­i­tary op­tions and push­ing other na­tions to step up their com­mit­ments.

In Iraq, he is de­pen­dent on how well Mr. al-Ma­liki’s gov­ern­ment han­dles the vi­o­lence and po­lit­i­cal prob­lems that threaten to tear the na­tion apart.

But on Afghanistan, he is not alone. Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter StephenHarper,Bri­tishPrimeMin­is­ter Tony Blair and NATO Sec­re­tary-Gen­er­alJaapdeHoopSch­ef­fer have called for Euro­pean na­tions to stepuptheir­com­mit­mentsandease the bur­dens on the U.S., Canada, Bri­tain and the Nether­lands.

“It is not ac­cept­able that our mis­sion in the south still lacks 20 per­cent of its com­bined joint sta­tus of re­quire­ments,” Mr. de Hoop Scheffer said, call­ing on gov­ern­ments to stop adding con­di­tions and lim­its to how their forces can be de­ployed. “We can ill af­ford re­con­struc­tion armies that can­not han­dle com­bat.”

Dur­ing his swing through th­ese two Baltic coun­tries, Mr. Bush point­edly praised Es­to­nia and Latvia for their com­mit­ments in the war on ter­ror­ism, and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Stephen J. Hadley said those two na­tions are “punch­ing above their weight” in terms of their mil­i­tary com­mit­ments.

The two coun­tries have com­mit­ted nearly 10 per­cent of their armed forces to Afghanistan and Iraq, and are “pro­vid­ing lead­er­ship in Euro­pean in­sti­tu­tions, de­spite their small size.”

Asked if that meant some larger NATO mem­bers such as Ger­many were fail­ing in their obli­ga­tions, Mr. Hadley did not an­swer di­rectly, say­ing in­stead it was right for Latvia and Es­to­nia to be “ac­knowl­edged and rec­og­nized.”

Also on Nov. 28 Mr. Bush:

lTook a swipe at Be­larus, whose au­thor­i­tar­ian leader is a close ally of Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin. Mr. Bush said op­pres­sion of democ­racy ad­vo­cates in the for­mer Soviet state “of­fends the con­science of Europe, and it of­fends the con­science of Amer­ica.”

Said NATO will in­vite other na- tions to join at the next sum­mit, in 2008, with Croa­tia, Al­ba­nia and Mace­do­nia be­ing likely can­di­dates. Ge­or­gia is also a po­ten­tial mem­ber, and Mr. Bush said the United States sup­ports Ukraine’s mem­ber­ship — iftheUkraini­an­swan­tit­them­selves.

Said talk­ing to Iran and Syria about the sit­u­a­tion in Iraq is a job for the sov­er­eign Iraqi gov­ern­ment, not the United States.

The pres­i­dent also ducked a ques­tion about whether Iraq has fallen into a “civil war,” in­stead fo­cus­ing on what he called in­creased sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence. He said fo­ment­ing such vi­o­lence is part of al Qaeda’s plan in Iraq.

“TheSa­marrabomb­ingth­at­took place last win­ter was in­tended to cre­ate sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence, and it has. The re­cent bomb­ings were to per­pet­u­ate the sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence,” he said.

Mean­while, Democrats are fo­cus­ing on try­ing to get Mr. Bush to say the con­flict has turned into a civil war.

“While news agen­cies, nu­mer­ous ex­perts and many Amer­i­can and Iraqi lead­ers all agree that Iraq is in the midst of a civil war, Pres­i­dent Bush nei­ther ac­knowl­edges the facts on the ground nor rec­og­nizes that his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s failed poli­cies have con­trib­uted to the chaos,” said Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee press sec­re­tary Sta­cie Pax­ton.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Pres­i­dent Bush, right, toasts with Es­to­nian Pres­i­dent Toomas Hen­drik Ilves be­fore the start of their lunch to­gether at Es­to­nian Theater, in Tallinn, Es­to­nia on Nov. 28.

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