President Obama seemed to rewrite history in his remarks on Friday in Strasbourg, France, telling an audience at a town hall event:
Obama, April 3: But after the initial NATO engagement in Afghanistan, we got sidetracked by Iraq, and we have not fully recovered that initial insight that we have a mutual interest in ensuring that organizations like al Qaeda cannot operate.
But NATO didn’t have a mission in Afghanistan until Aug. 11, 2003, several months after the U.S. invaded Iraq. A NATO press release called its involvement a "groundbreaking operation" and "the Alliance’s first mission beyond the Euro-Atlantic area."
And that was nearly two years after the U.S., with Great Britain’s assistance, launched the war in Afghanistan. It’s true that NATO-member countries had sent troops earlier than 2003 as part of a United Nations-mandated force (the International Security Assistance Force), which was created in late December 2001 and was charged primarily with maintaining security in and around Kabul. NATO took over leadership of the ISAF.
Thanks to freelance writer Mark Powell for bringing this misstatement by Obama to our attention.