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The stark reality of NATO in Afghanistan

Besides the US, Canada and Britain have illustrated the greatest willingness among NATO members to fight the Taliban. There is a 3,600-strong British taskforce in Helmand now, and last week the British committed to almost 900 more personnel by October.

But the majority are not to engage in combat, and former British defense minister Doug Henderson has leveled criticism at the Defense Ministry and Downing Street for a lack of clarity in the British mission, stating: "They are [currently] neither a peacekeeping nor a fighting force."

. . .

Unfortunately, almost no one aside from Britain and Canada is willing to exchange fire with the Taliban. Germany, Spain and France will not participate in operations that entail confronting insurgents, for example.

This tops the list of almost 70 separate national caveats - restrictions self-imposed by each NATO member - that make coordination of the mission a nightmare. Caveats range from the German refusal to carry other NATO members in their helicopters to other states' prohibition of the use of chemical riot control agents like tear gas.

. . .

Other problems include the reluctance of NATO countries to contribute troops and aircraft to deployments in the first place. The Netherlands debated for months before committing about 1,000 troops, and Denmark and Sweden took weeks to agree to far more modest personnel contributions. This disconnect between NATO's high command and individual member states has been evident since 2003, when NATO first took over the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

Besides being fractious, NATO lacks experience. In Kosovo, Bosnia and so far in Afghanistan, NATO has carried out only peacekeeping missions. As NATO assumes responsibility for the south - the hotbed of Taliban resistance - it will be facing an enemy that takes pride in the Afghan legacy of expelling foreign forces.

These are the circumstances under which the US is officially "handing over" the responsibility for a major counter-insurgency and state-building project to NATO?

. . .

Is the US trying to slip out more quietly and gradually this time, leaving NATO responsible for a permanent peacekeeping mission in a failed state?

Interesting article, worth reading in full.

Will Europe stand for this, I wonder.
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by cigonia on Thu Jul 20th, 2006 at 06:34:17 AM EST
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