Protesters: Afghan War Is A Drain On Europe
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Here's the president speaking at the NATO conference in Lisbon.
INSKEEP: Our goal is that the Afghans have taken the lead in 2014, and in the same way that we have transitioned in Iraq, we will have successfully transitioned so that we are still providing a training and support function.
INSKEEP: OK. Let's pay attention to that last phrase - training and support function. That phrase means that allied forces will being staying put in Afghanistan, well beyond 2014. As NPR's Eric Westervelt reports from Lisbon, that part of the plan is not so popular in Europe.
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ERIC WESTERVELT: With unemployment here, at nearly 11 percent - the worst in two decades - and an on-going Euro debt crisis, Michad says the war is a drain on Europe.
M: It's not good for the Europe. I don't see the benefit. Our unemployment it's almost one million of people that not have jobs. It's more important for us - work.
WESTERVELT: But those facts have done little to assuage a European public, weary of the conflict. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, there was European support - however halting - for the U.S.-led war effort. But nine years on there's a sense that there's been a collective loss of focus.
M: state-building? Is it also about educating women or lofty goals of democracy?
M: And as time's gone by, it's become apparent that this is less and less doable anyway, no matter how noble an ambition it might be.
WESTERVELT: Nick Witney is a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. He says polls show that voters in Europe no longer buy the argument that the defense of European capitals from terrorism depends on combat in the Hindu Kush.
M: And they're more and more coming around to realize that in terms of dealing with the extremist Islamic terrorist problem in Europe - which is a very real one - being involved in combat operations in Afghanistan is counterproductive.
WESTERVELT: Eric Westervelt, NPR News, Lisbon.
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