Thursday

29th Feb 2024

Biden asks Europeans for help in Afghanistan

  • US vice-president Joseph Biden stressed the 'crucial' role of the EU and Nato in Afghanistan (Photo: Nato)

US vice-president Joseph Biden on Tuesday (10 March) renewed pleas for more European involvement in Afghanistan, with EU counterparts relieved he was not insisting so much on troops, but civilian assistance.

"I know the people of Europe, like the people of my country, are tired of war, and they are tired of this war [in Afghanistan]," he said at a press conference following his meeting with Nato ambassadors.

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"But we know that it was from the space that joins Afghanistan and Pakistan that the attacks of 9/11 occurred. We know that it was from the very same area that extremists planned virtually every major terrorist attack on Europe since 9/11, and the attack on Mumbai," Mr Biden continued

The 55,100-strong Nato mission in Afghanistan faces a major shift of policy with President Barack Obama expected to mount a review and produce new proposals ready for the alliance's summit on 2-4 April.

Mr Biden's meeting with European and Canadian ambassadors to Nato was mostly designed to mark the start of a consultation process for the review.

"I heard from our allies. I heard the concerns and they listed their priorities. And I pledged to them, as I pledge to all Europeans now, that we will build their ideas into our review, which we expect to present to President Obama before the end of this month, in preparation of the Nato summit in April," Mr Biden said.

The US is adding 17,000 troops to Afghanistan as it withdraws soldiers from Iraq. But with most European allies already having stretched their military commitment to Afghanistan to the maximum, ambassadors were relieved to hear that Mr Biden was counting on the "civilian surge", with the increase in troops to come mostly from the US side, diplomatic sources told EUobserver.

The EU is to increase its police training mission from 180 to 400, with member states also expected to send more police trainers, judges and other judicial experts to improve the rule of law in Afghanistan.

Talking to the Taliban

Asked to clarify President Obama's statement that Nato was "not winning" the war in Afghanistan, Mr Biden said: "We are not winning the war, but the war is not lost." He also explained that the US might engage in talks with the moderate elements within the Taliban, who are "not sure of their commitment" or only do it for the money. He suggested that only five percent of the Taliban were really committed to insurgency.

Mr Biden also met EU top diplomat Javier Solana and the representatives of the current Czech EU presidency and the upcoming Swedish one. A non-Nato member, Sweden nevertheless also actively contributes to the military mission in Afghanistan, and is planning to increase its troop strength in the country from 375 to 500 by the end of this year.

"Mr Biden gave us food for thought, but also food for action. It is an important year, with elections coming up in Afghanistan, with deliverables needed to be presented at the Nato summit – a trust fund to secure the financial sustainability of the Afghan army, training, electoral monitoring," Nato secretary-general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer concluded at the press conference.

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