But Afghanistan was the hot underlying issue in Brussels. In Pakistan's Swat Valley, recently ceded to Taliban forces by Pakistan, the Taliban are already appointing civil servants, acting with impunity against civilians, and cranking up heavy new propaganda machinery via FM radio. The secretary began consulting on a nearly finished US strategy for the NATO Afghan deployment.
Europeans, despite enthusiasm for Barack Obama, are skeptical about more NATO troops for Afghanistan, especially lacking a clear strategy. Clinton's visit comes in tandem with Mr. Biden, former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who visits NATO next Tuesday on that Afghan strategy.
Sources close to the State Department say the new strategy is likely to reenergize a broad Afghan-Pakistan regional approach, with a set of more tightly focused but downsized goals. The previous goal to "democratize" Afghanistan will probably shift toward "efficient" and "achievable" stabilization – avoiding an open-ended mission, but requiring more immediate "heavy lifting" by allies. The strategy will require more troops to achieve a balance of military and civilian help, but also to bring in India, Iran, Russia, and even China.
"You need a buy-in on the strategy by allies," says one US diplomat in Europe. "If you are Europe, and you don't believe in the strategy, you offer cosmetic help, but you don't make life--and-death decisions and commitments in Afghanistan."