Biden Warns of 'Deteriorating' Afghan Situation

March 10, 2009 - 7:42 AM
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Vice President Joe Biden, left, walks with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on arrival at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Tuesday, March 10, 2009. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

Brussels (AP) - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden urged NATO members to jointly confront al-Qaida and other extremist groups in Afghanistan where he said instability threatens all of the alliance's members equally.
 
Appearing before NATO's top decision making body, Biden solicited ideas to reverse a losing military strategy in Afghanistan as part of President Barack Obama's policy to bring more European allies on board to fight the Taliban-led insurgency.
 
He warned the situation in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan was worsening, adding, "The deteriorating situation in the region poses a security threat from our respect not just to the United States, but to every single nation around this table."
 
"It was from that remote area of the world that al-Qaida plotted 9/11 and subsequent attacks" in Europe and elsewhere.
 
In his speech, Biden said the Obama administration will be keen to engage NATO allies in global security discussions, marking a departure from the last eight years when Washington often was on a go-it-alone course that upset its European allies.
 
"President Obama and I are deeply committed to NATO. Lets get that straight right from the start," Biden told the North Atlantic Council -- the panel of ambassadors from NATO's 26 member nations.
 
Biden said Americans view a terrorist attack in Europe "as an attack on the United States. That is not hyperbole ... We view it as a gateway to further attacks on the United States. So please understand that this is not a U.S.-centrist view that only if America is attacked is there a terrorist threat."
 
He said he came to hear ideas from the allies on how NATO can bring stability to Afghanistan.
 
"It is from that area that al-Qaida and its extremist allies are regenerating in conceiving new atrocities aimed at the people around the world from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to the United States, Europe and Australia," he added.
 
After his consultations with NATO allies he will meet with senior officials at EU headquarters.
 
His visit, less than a week after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with senior NATO and EU officials here, highlights the new priority that diplomatic outreach to allies has become for Washington.
 
An issue closely related to the Afghan war is growing concern that neighboring Pakistan could be sliding further into instability.
 
Obama launched a strategic review of U.S. policy in Afghanistan after he took office in January. That review is expected to be completed later this month.
 
"What I want to learn is what your countries believe are working, what you think is not working, how we can do a better job in stopping Afghanistan and Pakistan from being a haven for terrorists," Biden said.
 
Each NATO and EU country "has a vital interest" in ensuring the region is made stable, he said.
 
A senior U.S. administration official traveling with Biden said the vice president would not make specific requests for extra troops from European allies.
 
The Obama administration has ordered 17,000 more U.S. troops to the country to bolster the 38,000 already there as a way to turn the tide. NATO has about 25,000 non-American troops in Afghanistan. Washington's allies have been reluctant to increase their troops levels.
 
The top U.S. military officer in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, said Sunday that coalition forces were not winning the war in the south, which remains the center of the Taliban-led insurgency.
 
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Associated Press Writer Robert Wielaard contributed to this report.