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The “wheeling and dealing” at the NATO summit yielded “concrete commitments” on allied support for military trainers and additional security forces in Afghanistan, but not the large contingent of combat troops President Barack Obama had hoped for after revealing his new Afghan strategy.
Nevertheless, he called the summit a “very productive meeting,” lauded the unanimous ally support for the plan, despite any drawbacks, and reiterated that the United States’ aim “to disrupt, dismantle and defeat” Al Qaeda in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan remained unwavering.
The White House said European nations agreed to send between 4,700 and 5,000 troops and trainers to Afghanistan, a great number of them deployed to provide support and security for the upcoming elections in August.
And though this was not a pledging conference, Obama said, he had already received a $100 million “down payment” for Aghan support. More than half of the amount, about $57 million will come from Germany.
“This effort cannot be America’s alone,” Obama said. “All of NATO understands that Al Qaeda is a threat to all of us.”
Speaking to a group of journalists who crowded around him before Obama’s remarks to reporters after the summit sessions ended on Saturday in Strasbourg, White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs tried to explain the break down of the commitment. Britain pledged to send 900 troops, while Spain and Germany said they would each send 600, he said. Additionally, 1,400 to 2,000 soldiers would form over 70 embedded training teams for the Afghan national army and police forces and 11 new countries committed to sending training teams.
“We are going to keep on going until we get this job done,” Obama said.
Responding to an Austrian journalist's question, Obama said the international meeting was not unlike meetings in the U.S. Senate, with a lot of "wheeling and dealing" and people pursuing their issues.
In response to another reporter’s question, Obama addressed an Afghan law that human rights groups say essentially legalizes marital rape. Obama called the law “abhorrent” and said that the United States had already stated its objections to Afghan leaders.
Other allies have also reacted. Reuters reported on Saturday that Italy was considering withdrawing temporarily all the women in its Afghan force to protest the law. The New York Times reported Sunday that the Afghan government has said it is reviewing the law.
Obama again congratulated Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, on his selection as the next NATO secretary general as well as Albania and Croatia on their new membership status.
While the negotiations were going on inside the summit halls, protesters on the streets of Strasbourg and over the border in Germany violently clashed with police throughout the day. Images on Saturday showed thick black smoke rising from a border station and a hotel set ablaze by protesters.
On the train ride back to Paris, a half-dozen pacifist demonstrators discussed the day’s events. The group included an 84-year-old woman who repeatedly said how saddened she was to see how the events had unfolded. “I felt like I was in a civil war,” she said.
The most vocal woman, a middle-aged mother, likened what she saw out there to “images from the Warsaw ghettos.” She said it made her think of the people who have to live under siege every day, “like in Gaza, for example.”
The women had harsh words for the police whom they said incited a lot of anger from protesters because of their over zealous, aggressive policing that bordered on militancy. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they were hiding victims from us,” the middle-aged woman said.
She also criticized French President Nicolas Sarkozy, saying the police were just following his orders since the heavy police presence was meant “to show Obama that he had the situation in hand.”