Obama opens door to more Canada in Afghanistan
On the day he signed the order authorizing 17,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan, President Obama opened the door to “ongoing talks” with Canada in a “comprehensive strategy” regarding our engagement there, along with the U.S. and with NATO.
He was nuanced – and spoke of the need to work with Canada on expanding diplomacy and development – a Canada model, in fact. But today’s Globe and Mail seems to hit the nail on the head in a must read story by Campbell Clark: “Soft talking President hints he’d like Ottawa to extend Afghan mission.”
Days before his arrival for a seven hour “working meeting” in Ottawa with Prime Minister Harper, President Obama granted CBC Newsworld a ten minute interview in the White House. Three topics emerged: trade, energy and Afghanistan. On NAFTA, Obama made reassuring noises about abiding by its rules; on energy, his more interesting position referenced collaboration between Canada, Mexico and the U.S. to “sequester” greenhouse emissions.
And on Afghanistan, for the first time in a long time, a U.S. President specifically acknowledged Canada’s heroic sacrifice. Were our NATO allies, those with much larger populations, but without the gumption, or depending on your point of view, the foolhardiness to step up to the plate, listening?
It was good to hear Obama offer his gratitude to the families of the fallen. But in his brief interview, in advance of his meeting with Prime Minister Harper, Obama deftly avoided anything precise on any of these topics.
Yes, Obama cited deference to the 2011 date and stated, “I think it’s important for the Canadian legislature and the people of Canada to get a sense that what they’re doing is productive.” The bulk of the President’s comments showed that he will try and persuade us that a complete strategy of troops, diplomacy and development – a remix, more and better, of what’s gone before, will and should continue.
This column has predicted that one way or the other (the link is to Joe Klein’s blog on The Swamp at Time; scroll down for his Feb. 16/17 entries) our citizens will not be coming home from Afghanistan at the 2011 mark.
Obama’s Thursday meeting in Ottawa seems designed as a “door opener” to get Canada on side for a longer, more involved U.S. venture in a region of the world fraught with historical, economic and cultural difficulties. Thoughts?