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Barack Obama made an impassioned plea to America’s allies to send more troops to Afghanistan, warning that failure to do so would leave Europe vulnerable to more terrorist atrocities.But though he continued to dazzle Europeans on his debut international tour, the Continent’s leaders turned their backs on the US President.
Gordon Brown was the only one to offer substantial help. He offered to send several hundred extra British soldiers to provide security during the August election, but even that fell short of the thousands of combat troops that the US was hoping to prise from the Prime Minister.
Just two other allies made firm offers of troops. Belgium offered to send 35 military trainers and Spain offered 12. Mr Obama’s host, Nicolas Sarkozy, refused his request.
The secretary's emphasis on civilian help from NATO reflects the recognition in the U.S. government that the allies have provided just about all the troops they are willing to provide, currently about 32,000. Gates says he still wants more NATO troops for the elections in August, for which he says the commitment has been disappointing, but he says those may be short-term deployments.
"We really need additional help on the civilian side, there needs to be a strengthening on the civilian side, as we are strengthening on the military side. And frankly I think that it may be, I hope that it may be, easier for our allies to do that than significant troop increases, especially for the longer term," he said.
U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Wednesday he would ask NATO allies this week for a short-term increase in troops for Afghanistan to provide security for elections due in August.
But Gates, speaking to reporters as he flew to a NATO Defence ministerial meeting in Poland, said the Obama administration would also seek longer-term NATO assistance for a range of civilian programs ranging from governance and development to police training and funding of the Afghan army.
With America's allies likely to rebuff requests to send more combat troops to Afghanistan, many Pentagon officials want President Barack Obama to alter U.S. policy and seek NATO help only in other areas such as police training and support for democratization, defense officials said.
Obama called for more NATO combat troops while he was campaigning for the presidency. But the officials said that NATO allies are unlikely to defy the majorities of their citizens who are opposed to deeper involvement in the war, and he'd squander political capital on an almost certainly futile bid to convince them otherwise.