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Clinton pushes NATO allies for united strategy on Afghanistan

The Secretary of State also calls for a 'fresh start' with Russia.

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"The European commitment is low for a war that could turn into Vietnam," says Ms. Guérot. "However, if you look at the 10 people that count most in this country [Germany], they are hedging their comments on Afghanistan."

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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper framed the current Afghan moment sharply last weekend. Canadian troops are deployed in some of the toughest parts of south Afghanistan and are scheduled to pull out in 2011. Mr. Harper cast the need for a new strategy against a strong belief, shared in Europe, that "We are not going to ever defeat the insurgency," as he told CNN and The Wall Street Journal.

The new French envoy, Pierre Lellouche, a member of Parliament and experienced foreign-policy hand, pointed out that "'When the Americans went to Iraq, after the Taliban downfall in Afghanistan, they only left 7,000 men. Security was delegated to more-or-less corrupted warlords and the security system got worse, while the Taliban were rebuilding their forces in the Pakistani tribal areas."

The Obama administration, which has still to appoint many levels of senior diplomats, is trying to shift the tone of US policy from one of unilateralism to one of consultation. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in a joint address to Congress this week, said Europe now has "the most pro-American leadership in living memory."

"The Europeans are still giddy about Obama's election," says Charles Kupchan, of the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. "The US is putting out feelers and gestures of goodwill. It is yet to see what will be reciprocated. Sending 17,000 more US troops [to Afghanistan] is one piece. The deployment is needed to get neighbors to help out."

Ronald Asmus, of the German Marshall Fund in Brussels, hopes the Obama team moves more swiftly to appoint senior US officials and to keep Europe a high priority. "There needs to be a reset button on Europe, just as there is on Russia," Mr. Asmus says. "The atmosphere has changed, the Europeans are ready to roll up their sleeves. But the gaps on Afghanistan, Russia, and enlargement are real."