US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday the change in US administrations offers fresh traction for his argument that NATO allies must shoulder more of the load in Afghanistan and the United States has an opportunity to repair relations with Russia.
The stalemated Afghan war is the dominant theme as Gates, the only holdover from the Republican administration of President George W. Bush, is making his first overseas trip since President Barack Obama took office last month. Gates will see fellow NATO defense ministers in Poland, where he will ask sometimes reluctant European governments to send additional troops to Afghanistan at least for short stints ahead of midyear national elections.
On Tuesday, Obama pledged 17,000 new US forces for Afghanistan during the coming months to deal with what he called a deteriorating situation.
"It is a new administration, and the administration is prepared, as the president's decision made clear yesterday, ... to make additional commitments to Afghanistan," Gates told reporters traveling with him. "But there clearly will be expectations that the allies must do more as well."