NATO Official: Afghanistan War Not Just U.S. Burden

The war in Afghanistan is a "team effort" and NATO is prepared to stay on the ground there with U.S. forces "as long as it takes," alliance chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Tuesday at the White House.

Rasmussen met Tuesday with President Obama and the two talked about a range of issues, but they focused mainly on the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.

"Our operation in Afghanistan is not America's responsibility or burden alone. It is a team effort," Rasmussen, a former Danish prime minister, told reporters.

"This alliance will stand united, and we will stay in Afghanistan as long as it takes to finish the job," he said.

Obama described the meeting as "very fruitful." He and Rasmussen agreed that "it is absolutely critical that we are successful at dismantling, disrupting, destroying the al-Qaida network and we are effectively working with the Afghan government to provide the security necessary for that country."

Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization were looking at an on-the-ground assessment of the war authored by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Rasmussen said. In the report, McChrystal calls for additional ground forces.

But "the first thing is not numbers," the NATO chief said. "It is to find and fine-tune the right approach to implement the strategy already laid down." He said he agreed with Obama's approach of "strategy first, then resources."

The meeting with Rasmussen comes as the Obama administration is debating a new course in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, the president is set to hold the first of several meetings with his national security team to discuss a possible shift in strategy.

In recent months, the Taliban insurgency has made inroads in key southern Afghan provinces, and that has been accompanied by an upsurge in violence. In the latest attack, a roadside bomb in southern Kandahar province killed 30 people and wounded dozens more.

McChrystal took command of all foreign forces in June and quickly issued orders meant to reduce civilian casualties as part of a broader strategy to win the "hearts and minds" of ordinary Afghans.

Obama also commented briefly on the administration's plans to refocus its plan for a defense shield in Europe to counter the threat of ballistic missiles from Iran.

He and Rasmussen agreed that "it is important for us to reach out to Russia," and that "we want to improve generally not only U.S.-Russian relations, but also NATO-Russian relations, while making absolutely clear that our commitments to all of our allies in NATO is sacrosanct," the president said.

From NPR staff and wire service reports

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