Bush: NATO Key U.S. Ally in Anti-terror War
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 20, 2006 President Bush today praised NATO for its help in Iraq and Afghanistan and made suggestions for dealing with the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan.
"NATO is effective, and that's one of the things that's really important for our citizens to understand -- that our relationship with NATO is an important part of helping us to win the war on terror," Bush said in a statement to reporters after meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the White House.
Bush lauded NATO's assistance in Afghanistan, where it has deployed 10,000 troops, and in Iraq, where NATO personnel are helping to train Iraqi security forces. Another 6,000 NATO troops, led by Dutch forces, are slated to deploy to Afghanistan this year.
"I want to thank you for your very strong involvement in Afghanistan," Bush told Scheffer, calling NATO's presence in Afghanistan "really important."
Bush saluted NATO for helping to train Iraqi security forces "so they can end up protecting the Iraqi people from those who want to kill innocent life in order to affect the outcome of that democracy."
Scheffer agreed with Bush about the high stakes in Iraq and Afghanistan. "In Afghanistan, the fight against terror is an extremely important element," he said. He also noted that all 26 NATO allies participate in one way or another in the training mission in Iraq.
Bush said he also spoke with the NATO chief about the situation in Dafur, Sudan, where the U.N. estimates that 300,000 people have been killed and 2 million have been left homeless since a bloody civil war began in 2003. The security mission in the western province of Dafur has thus far been handled by the African Union, but it's apparent that more needs to be done.
Bush suggested that the African Union should petition the U.N. to take over security duties in Dafur. If that's done "NATO can move in with United States' help" and then assist peacekeeping and humanitarian aid efforts in Dafur, Bush said.
"We're intent upon providing security for the people there," Bush said, "and intent upon helping work toward a lasting peace agreement."
Again, Scheffer agreed. "I'm quite sure, as I told the president, that when the U.N. comes, the NATO allies will be ready to do more in enabling a United Nations force in Dafur."
America is NATO's most important ally, Scheffer said. Both he and Bush said they look forward to the upcoming annual NATO summit in Riga, Latvia, in November.