Europe overwhelmingly against US persistence with armed solution to Afghanistan

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Europe overwhelmingly against US persistence with armed solution to Afghanistan


In a internationally televised BBC Live debate at Brussels Forum, speaker after speaker hedged their full support to US over its continued reliance on armed solution to AF-APK problems. This follows immediately after US President Obama’s new policy announcements where he laid out that the US focus will be on fighting the ephemeral ghost of Al Qaida on the eve of dispatching of further 17000 troops and a contingent of another 4000 to train Afghan police and military personnel. State Department’s Anne Marie Slaughter had come over pressing Europeans in the name of the transatlantic share destiny, to do more to take the joint challenges of global environment, terrorism and economic issues. British, Swedish officials did confirm their full commitment to transatlantic alliance, but debate again and again veered towards the frustrated hope that Obama will come out with new soft options rather than get overwhelmed by his military commanders and their department of defence supporters. As New York Times reported about a long session of top level internal debate in White House situation room, which was participated by Vice- President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary, Robert Gates and Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, US president Obama took a full week to come to his ‘signature foreign policy’ decision to continue with the Bush policies, though with renewed vigour. It is apparent to observers, that Obama has felt cornered and could not come out with any new initiative to change the course in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as he had scant support from his own administration, which is barely able to come to grips with the continued crisis at various levels. For all practical purposes, he appeared to rubber stamp what ever his war cabinet dictated. That was the easy way out for him at this juncture. He has so many problems and he felt it will take the burden off his head, if his military team is given what they are asking. In contrast, it had alarmed his European partners, that instead of expecting a change for soft option, they are being now pressed for further active involvement both in troops, civilian technical support as well as funding.


European issue of differences in strategic thinking did come out and it was a big change that US representatives did not appear to be as haughty and arrogant as those in Bush era. But the message was clear to the European that US expect them to sign on the dotted line.


BBC anchor brought in an Indian journalist, Shekhar Gupta, in to the discussion as a courtesy to India now being part of the greater western alliance. Shekhar Gupta ill-prepared for the moment, could only come out with a less than serious comments about he is enjoying the whole debate as an observer. In fact, India is being pressed in so many ways to go of its way to join US efforts to ‘fight terrorism’ in the neighbourhood. Indian officials are now a bit lukewarm in fully supporting US efforts, as they find, they whole focus of strategic partnership between US and them, is totally geared to US interests and has no space for Indian concerns.


A fleeting observation could not be suppressed that Obama presidency may be under some mixed feeling in European circles, who have yet to find any enthusiasm for the US public’s open embrace of an Afro-American President. It is rather too much to expect old Europe to shed its old prejudices so soon. If this trend is not countered, US will be at a vast disadvantage to get as full cooperation from Europe that its Anglo-Saxon presidents could command in the past.


All through the debate, US Senator John McCain, who lost to President Obama in last presidential elections, sat it out in the front rows, trying to add the weight of his neo-con inspired war arguments to prop up US pressure on Europe.


It did not appear to have worked.


Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai







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