BEAUMONT, Texas (Reuters) - European nations must step up their efforts in Afghanistan and not count on the United States and Britain to do the “dirty work” in fighting the Taliban, Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said on Thursday.
Obama, the front-runner to become his party’s nominee for the White House, praised Britain’s Prince Harry for secretly serving on the frontlines of the war and said other NATO allies should be doing more.
“With respect to our NATO allies, I’ve been very clear that we do need more support from them. We also may need to lift some of the constraints that they have placed on their forces there,” Obama said on his campaign plane.
“You can’t have a situation where the United States is called upon to do the dirty work, or the United States and Britain are called upon to do the dirty work, and nobody else wants to engage in actual firefights with the Taliban.”
The Illinois senator said that characterization of avoiding combat did not represent each NATO country’s position, and he did not single out specific nations.
Germany has faced growing pressure from NATO partners in past weeks to increase the number of German troops in Afghanistan and shift them from the north to dangerous southern regions.
Obama said Washington would pay closer attention to the opinions of its allies on foreign policy issues under an Obama administration, a nod to the strained relations that resulted between some European countries and the United States after the Iraq war, which he opposed.
“It is, I think, important for us to ask more from our European allies,” he said. “It is also important for us to send a signal that we’re going to be listening to them when it comes to policies that they find objectionable, Iraq being at the top of the list.”
In a debate on Tuesday, Democratic hopeful and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton chastised Obama for not doing anything to address the situation in Afghanistan when he chaired a Senate subcommittee on Europe and was in a position to hold hearings.
On Thursday, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, had served as a combat soldier on the front lines in Afghanistan for 2 1/2 months.
Obama praised the 23-year-old soldier: “I think that the fact that Prince Harry is serving is commendable, and I’m sure the people of Great Britain are very proud of him.”