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NATO Chief Backs Obama’s Approach in Afghanistan

September 29, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST
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NATO's secretary general told President Obama on Tuesday that the alliance will support the U.S. in Afghanistan for "as long as it takes."
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JIM LEHRER: And still to come on the NewsHour tonight: a not-guilty plea; a new Bay Bridge; and four fresh faces in Congress.

That follows our Afghanistan strategy story. Jeffrey Brown is in charge.

JEFFREY BROWN: The prospect of a shift in that strategy was on the table today in a series of meetings at the White House. This morning, the president sat down with NATO’s new secretary general, former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Both said the objective in Afghanistan remains the same.

U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It is absolutely critical that we are successful in dismantling, disrupting, destroying the al-Qaida network and that we are effectively working with the Afghan government to provide the security necessary for that country.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN, secretary general, NATO: Success in Afghanistan is achievable and will be achieved. And don’t make any mistake: The normal discussion on the right approach should not be misinterpreted as lack of resolve. This alliance will stand united, and we will stay in Afghanistan as long as it takes to finish our job.

JEFFREY BROWN: By year’s end, under a build-up already ordered, there will be 68,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan, joining some 39,000 other NATO troops.

Over the weekend, General Stanley McChrystal, who commands both the U.S. and NATO forces, formally submitted his request for more American troops, possibly as many as 40,000. The strategy review comes as the outcome of Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election remains in doubt and as public support for the war is falling in Europe and in the U.S., amid growing casualties.

This year is on track to be the deadliest yet for coalition troops, with 379 killed, including 222 Americans. Deaths among Afghan civilians have also spiked. Just today, a roadside bomb ripped apart a packed bus near Kandahar, killing 30 civilians.