Growing Pressure on Europe

General Petraeus calls for stronger European commitment in Afghanistan

Dr. Henry Kissinger (left) und General David Petraeus (right). Photo: Kai Mörk

Shortly before the end of the 45th Munich Security Conference, the sentence that many Europeans had expected after the inauguration of the new US President, Barack Obama, was finally uttered: Europe had to ensure stronger participation in the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Europeans who are skeptical about extending the NATO mission in Afghanistan can hardly be relieved by the fact that it was said by General David Petraeus. The four-star general, commander-in-chief of US forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, is considered a brilliant strategist and has acquired an excellent reputation in Washington for the significant improvements in the US operation in Iraq.

Petraeus conceded, however, that enhanced commitment in Afghanistan did not only mean additional combat forces. He added that more financial support and better cooperation with the Afghan government were also necessary.

The US General made it clear in Munich, however, that the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan necessitated additional forces. This applied to civilian efforts and military approaches. Petraeus explicitly referred to US President Obama in his call for more troops and appealed to NATO allies that additional troops were required. He added that not only additional combat forces were needed but also in concrete terms more logistic elements and attack helicopters. The General said that he would be "remiss if he did not ask individual countries" to examine very closely their respective contributions in Afghanistan. Like other force providers, the United States had already planned additional armed forces for the operation in Afghanistan.

Richard Holbrooke, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, called for new ideas, better coordination between the United States and its allies, and "a lot of time" for the NATO mission. He said no quick solution was expected for the crisis situation in Afghanistan and the region and there was no "magic formula" for it. He said the conflict with the Taliban could only be defused by a regional approach. The former US ambassador to Germany warned that the future of NATO was at stake in Afghanistan. For this reason, he said, the United States would not let Afghanistan down.

08 February 2009, by Ernst Hebeker