Afghanistan Troops: Gates Appeals Directly to European Publics at Munich

Afghanistan Troops: Gates Appeals Directly to European Publics at Munich

For months, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has had only limited success in generating greater contributions for NATO's military operations in Afghanistan by appealing directly to European governments. As a result, Gates has now decided to pursue the risky strategy of appealing directly to their skeptical publics for support.

The Afghan war dominated the two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers in Vilnius, Lithuania. The government of Canada had provoked a mini crisis by warning beforehand that that it would withdraw its forces from the insurgent-prone province of Kandahar next January unless other NATO countries agreed to send at least 1,000 additional troops to the region.

At Vilnius, Gates thanked the Europeans for their contributions and claimed that "a number of the allies are considering what more they might be able to do." Nevertheless, he evidently decided to supplement these governmental commitments by attempting to boost European public support for the Afghan mission. European politicians are acutely aware that many of their voters have grown wary of supporting the seemingly endless NATO military operation in a non-European country. Gates told reporters: "It seemed to me . . . perhaps there would be value in surfacing this dialog and these issues, to have a more open conversation about the importance of Afghanistan's security to both the United States and Europe."

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