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Biden Consults NATO Allies on Afghanistan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 10, 2009 – NATO is not winning the war in Afghanistan, but it is far from lost, Vice President Joe Biden said today in Brussels, Belgium.

Biden is attending the meeting of the North Atlantic Council -- the principal decision-making body for the NATO alliance.

Biden listed the challenges facing the NATO nations today: a worldwide economic crisis; the spread of mass destruction weapons and dangerous diseases; the growing gap between the rich and poor; ethnic animosities and failed states; a rapidly warming planet and uncertain supplies of water, energy and food; and the challenge to freedom and security posed by radical fundamentalism.

“Nowhere is that challenge more acute than in Afghanistan,” Biden noted.

After nearly eight years of war, the people of Europe and the United States are tired, and many question the need to have forces fighting in Afghanistan, Biden said.

“But we know that it was from the space that joins Afghanistan and Pakistan that the attacks of 9/11 occurred,” he said. “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 [India]. We know that it was from this same area that al-Qaida and its extremist allies are regenerating and conceiving new atrocities to visit upon us.”

The alliance must stand together in the face of the threat, which is at the heart of the strategic review that President Barack Obama has ordered. The review will be released before the NATO Summit in early April. Biden and others are consulting with NATO and non-NATO allies on the strategy.

“I heard from our allies,” the vice president said. “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.”

Biden pointed out the factors that are shaping strategic thinking, including setting clear and achievable goals, looking at Afghanistan and Pakistan together, and melding the military, diplomatic and economic effort in the region.

“Our goal is not to stay in Afghanistan; it's to be able to leave and to leave behind Afghan forces that can provide for the security and safety of the people of Afghanistan, and the need to ensure the security and legitimacy in this year's presidential elections,” he said.

Biden said there was an “incredible amount of consensus” at the council meeting. The United States will continue to consult with interested parties as the process continues.

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