Gates: Europeans underrate Islamic militancy
By KIM MURPHY
MUNICH, Germany For weeks, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has been passing an empty hat among European allies, looking for more troops to bail out the struggling NATO mission in Afghanistan.
On Sunday, he laid out his cards out, offering a stark assessment of the problems U.S. and allied forces face and a dark prediction of what would happen if Afghanistan's "cancer" is allowed to spill into the rest of the world.
Gates told an international security conference here that European nations must, for their own safety, ramp up their battle against Islamic militants on the other side of the globe.
"I am concerned that many people on this continent may not comprehend the magnitude of the direct threat to European security," he said, citing at least 10 recent alleged terrorist plots in Europe.
"Imagine if Islamic terrorists had managed to strike your capitals on the same scale as they struck in New York," he said. "Imagine if they had laid their hands on weapons and materials with even greater destructive capability. ... We forget at our peril that the ambition of Islamic extremists is limited only by opportunity." He warned that the danger would rapidly multiply with the downfall of a moderate government in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East.
The U.S. campaign to ramp up troop levels from other NATO nations has run up against citizenries largely hostile to the war, restrictions from some countries on what their troops are allowed to do, and disagreements over whether military contingents should be focused on fighting the Taliban or rebuilding schools, hospitals and utilities.
1) Gates: Europeans underrate Islamic militancy