Will NATO do more for Obama?
Obama's popularity abroad may not get him the extra forces in Afghanistan from NATO allies.
American allies' elation over the election of Barack Obama may help the president-elect as he looks to them for more help for the flagging mission in Afghanistan. But analysts say his popularity overseas will only buy him so much goodwill.Skip to next paragraph
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That may force Mr. Obama to pony up more American forces for Afghanistan or chart a different course altogether.
"Europeans will make gestures of cooperation, but the idea of a large European cooperation in Afghanistan just isn't in the cards," says George Friedman, founder and chief executive officer of Stratfor, a private intelligence firm.
For more than a year now, the Bush administration has been largely unsuccessful in its effort to get more help for Afghanistan from its allies overseas. European countries say they have given all they can, and, for many, the political landscape at home has restricted their ability to do more.
It is possible that Obama's popularity in Europe may well change this dynamic. Polls taken by the Pew Global Attitudes Project this summer show that Obama enjoys as much as 84 percent approval ratings in countries he is most likely to ask for more help from, such as France, Germany, and Britain.
"It will be quite hard to say no to President Obama," shrugs one European diplomat. Top British defense officials said last week they would look "very carefully" at any request for troops from Obama.
On the other hand, Canada maintains its position that it will redeploy most or all of its troops from Afghanistan by 2011. Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay said recently that Obama should look to other NATO allies instead of approaching the usual suspects again.
"The reality is there are other NATO doors that President-elect Obama should be knocking on first," Mr. MacKay said in Nova Scotia in November. "There is an enormous amount of goodwill that has been engendered by President-elect Obama that he might be willing to spend for a cause that he clearly believes in."
Germany, the third-largest contributor to the Afghanistan mission, is restrained by an electorate that is increasingly antiwar and doesn't want to see its military engaged in heavy combat.