- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 4, 2009

STRASBOURG, France — President Barack Obama heralded “concrete commitments” from NATO allies to help advance a new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan on Saturday, calling their agreement to send up to 5,000 more military trainers and police to Afghanistan “a strong down payment” toward securing the country.

The allies, however, refused to agree to a U.S. request for additional combat troops.

“I am pleased that our NATO allies pledged their strong and unanimous support for our new strategy,” Obama said at the end of a NATO summit that was heavily focused on Afghanistan and the newly retooled U.S. strategy to root out terrorists there and in neighboring Pakistan. “We’ve started to match real resources to achieve our goals,” he said.

The White House said NATO countries agreed to send more personnel, including about 3,000 on short-term deployments, as the alliance steps up its campaign to stabilize Afghanistan before elections in August. An additional 1,400 to 2,000 will provide training for Afghanistan’s national army.

But the allies rebuked Obama’s push for Europe to share the burden of the anti-terror fight in Afghanistan with more combat troops. That leaves the heavy lifting in U.S. hands. As he escalates U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Obama also is seeking to broaden the multinational commitment to preventing new terrorist attacks that he has repeatedly told Europeans are just as likely on their continent as in America.

Since Obama took office in January, the United States has committed to sending 21,000 additional troops as part of his new strategy.

The president is in the midst of an eight-day European trip focused on the global economic crisis and the terrorism fight in Afghanistan.

On the latter front, Obama spent the past few days trying to drum up support during a summit marking the 60th anniversary of NATO.

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