WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama already is testing whether Europe will match its enthusiastic words about his administration with concrete actions. After seeking help shutting the Guantanamo Bay prison, Obama now has a potentially more contentious request: He wants more European troops fighting in Afghanistan.

Obama has promised to escalate the fight against the Taliban and bolster U.S. forces. European leaders, who face greater public skepticism about the war, will have a harder time matching Obama even if they should want to.

NATO is preparing for its 60th anniversary summit at the beginning of April, and U.S. officials are making clear that Obama wants new European commitments there.

“Europeans are still hoping they won’t be asked” about Afghanistan, said Julianne Smith, director of the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “But Obama ran on the message ‘the urgency of now’ and he seems to consider Afghanistan urgent.”

The new president’s requests on Guantanamo and Afghanistan match those of former President George W. Bush but come from a leader who, unlike Bush, enjoys popular appeal among Europeans. While many are hoping Obama will heal the rifts of the Bush years, Obama seems to be testing the utility of their enthusiasm by asking for deeper cooperation.

The administration has had a mixed response to requests that European countries take in some prisoners from the detention center at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. European leaders have said they are willing, but only after detailed screening to make sure the detainees they take in are not security risks.

U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have made clear that Afghanistan will be the administration’s top overseas military priority and that it expects more from Europe. Vice President Joe Biden is expected to raise the issue at a security conference Feb. 6-8 in Munich, Germany.

Gates said in a Senate hearing Tuesday that the U.S. also wants Europeans to contribute more money to finance the Afghan army. He said the April summit and earlier meetings of NATO defense and foreign ministers would force alliance members to make decisions.

“There’s some indications that a few of our allies have been sitting on a capability so that they could give the new president something when he asks,” Gates said.

Obama is pressuring Europe as he prepares to put a large number of new U.S. troops — up to 30,000 more — on the line. He plans to shift forces from Iraq to Afghanistan, where militants linked to the former ruling Taliban and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida have made a comeback in recent years.

The new U.S. troops will be joining some 32,000 others who serve alongside 32,000 NATO-led and coalition troops — the highest number since the U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban from power in 2001.

But thousands of the European soldiers, including German, Italian and Spanish troops, serve in the less restive north and west of Afghanistan as part of its international force. The U.S. has pressed those countries to allow their troops also to be used in the more embattled south, along with other European contingents such as those of the Netherlands, France and Denmark.

“It’ll be a hard sell to get Europeans to ante up more resources for Afghanistan when we don’t know what we’re trying to achieve or how we plan to achieve it,” said Nick Whitney, former head of the European Defense Agency and a senior policy fellow at the Paris-based European Council on Foreign Relations. “There are big political incentives to respond positively to whatever Obama asks, but equally obviously there is pretty deep-rooted skepticism among the European public.”

Leaders in some European countries, including Germany, believe they are better equipped for primarily noncombat missions in an impoverished country whose problems cannot be solved on the battlefield alone.

Europeans who widely admire the new U.S. president may expect Obama to fulfill campaign promises to heal trans-Atlantic relations and expand cooperation. But on this issue, at least, Obama is signaling that trans-Atlantic cooperation means greater demands.

“The expectations in Europe are huge for the incoming president,” says Laurie Dundon, Washington-based director of trans-Atlantic relations at Germany’s Bertelsmann Foundation. “But Obama also has big expectations for Europe.”

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