NATO being tested - and failing Posted by: McQ
on Wednesday, December 12, 2007
I've said in the past that with the fall of the USSR, NATO was an alliance looking for a mission. With no conventional enemy facing it any more the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (note the first two words), an alliance which required all members to support any member who was attacked by the Soviets or their satellites, was functionally out of a job.
Then the Balkans came along and NATO warped its defensive charter into a preemptive one with offensive overtones (a note to all who like to argue that Iraq is the first preemptive use of American troops, not quite). While none of the NATO members was attacked, NATO used the pretext of a possible spreading conflict to cobble together a reason to intervene. And, as usual, the biggest player in the NATO role was the non-European member - the US. In a conflict which should have been handled strictly by European forces, we somehow ended up right in the middle of it.
Part of the reason is we bought into the concept that NATO needed to survive and transition into some sort of Euro-force with a broader mission. And how is that working out?
Not very well.
NATO is on the verge of letting Afghanistan slip away. And most of that is because it has an unworkable command structure, it is under-manned and members refuse to provide what is needed - and its not that much - to do what is necessary to turn it around there.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates sharply criticized NATO countries yesterday for not supplying urgently needed trainers, helicopters and infantry for Afghanistan as violence escalates there, vowing not to let the alliance "off the hook."
Gates called for overhauling the alliance's Afghan strategy over the next three to five years, shifting NATO's focus from primarily one of rebuilding to one of waging "a classic counterinsurgency" against a resurgent Taliban and growing influx of al-Qaeda fighters.
"I am not ready to let NATO off the hook in Afghanistan at this point," Gates told the House Armed Services Committee. Ticking off a list of vital requirements — about 3,500 more military trainers, 20 helicopters and three infantry battalions — Gates voiced "frustration" at "our allies not being able to step up to the plate."
As I noted a couple of days ago, given the above requirements, all the 39 countries who comprise NATO would commit to providing is 8 helicopters. And they all came from Poland.
Presently the US provides about 26,000 troops and has the eastern portion of Afghanistan. NATO has about 28,000 troops there, mostly in the south and west, and violence and attacks have surged there lately:
Violence is up significantly in Afghanistan this year, Mullen said, citing previously undisclosed figures that attacks are up 27 percent overall — including a 60 percent spike in the southern province of Helmand, where the Taliban resurgence is strongest. Suicide bombings, roadside bombs, and other tactics common in Iraq have increased, Gates said.
Presently the Brits, Aussies, Canadians and Dutch carry the combat load for NATO. And, it appears it is getting worse instead of better in the NATO area where the inability to fight a classic counterinsurgency due to lack of troops is telling.
"How long do we continue to watch this thing?" asked one senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "There is a desire to keep the heat on NATO and see if they will pony up the resources." But he added: "If they aren't willing to do that," the United States may have to change its policy.
And, of course, that change of policy will be more US troops and the assumption of the lead in the south. If the US has to end up doing that, then hopefully it will finally become clear to even the doubters that the alliance looking for a mission isn't willing to really do what is necessary to execute it when it finds one. Obviously NATO is a good enough defense boondoggle for the Euros to want it continued as a minimum as a defensive alliance of some sort. That works for them because we underwrite their defense with our presently peerless military might. Saves them a few bucks as well.
That attitude has got to change or we need to reconsider our membership in NATO.
In this test of NATO's will in Afghanistan, it is failing miserably - not that it matters to its members. The problem is that the NATO countries know how important Afghanistan is to the GWoT, and they also know that the US can't afford to fail there. So, as usual, our NATO "allies" will do the bare minimum (and sometimes not even that - 8 helicopters?) and expect the US to pick up the slack. And, we will.
But if this doesn't cause us to take a good, long and hard look at our commitment to the alliance vs. the commitment of the rest of those in the alliance, I don't know what will.
Ah McQ, this is all part of our decline you see. I’m sure if our trade balance was better and the price of oil was lower we’d be able to project our power better in Afghanistan or something and that would make it okay.
It isn’t, as I’ve been arguing with an old acquaintance of yours that the Euro’s want to continue to let us carry the weight of policing the world while they get on with doing business with places like Saddam’s Iraq. It could be that we made a mistake in starting a GWOT when we should have just negotiated, then bargained and then bribed dangerous regimes and their proxies like they normally do in Europe.
Nope, somehow this NATO failure is actually a result of the failure of American cowboy imperialist policy under the Bush administration, I’ve been convinced. It has nothing to do with the continued Euro/NATO/UN attitude that no job is too tough for the US military and taxpayer to handle mostly alone and no job where the Americans aren’t willing to send their troops alone is worth taking on (Africa). You know they think we’re crazy for spending 1/2 the worlds defense budget. (/snark)
The things that will destroy America are prosperity at any price, peace at any price, safety first instead of duty first, the love of soft living and the get rich quick theory of life. — Teddy Roosevelt
"PRAGUE, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) — Slovakia will definitively withdraw all troops from Iraq after almost four and a half years, and send more soldiers to NATO operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo, the Slovak parliament confirmed on Tuesday.
By the end of this year, the remaining two Slovak troops from the Iraqi Freedom operation command will leave Iraq, according to a report reaching here from Bratislava, Slovakia.
Prime Minister Robert Fico promised to withdraw Slovaks from Iraq in his policy statement last summer.
On the other hand, the government will reinforce its contingent in Kosovo and Afghanistan.
Slovakia will send another 50 troops to Afghanistan next year so their total number will increase to 111."
Seriously, they are pulling out the remaining TWO soldiers they have out of Iraq.
Now, for some perspective:
In the Korean war, Ethiopia provided a 1,200-man battalion to the UN Command. The Philippines provided 5 1,500 man battalions. Thailand 2,100. Belgium 900, etc. etc.
I wonder if we have created a very large moral hazard in Europe. I wonder (been drinking beers, so be patient) if we maybe removed the nuclear umbrella for terror attacks on certain states...maybe that would concentrate some minds? I.e. ignore AQ getting control of Afghanistan and a Pak nuke at your own risk. (Did I mention I am drinking beers?)
While I disagree with the description of Europe’s situation, I agree completely that NATO should be disbanded, we should pull out, and that the US should not be in the business of defending Europe. Though it’s Europe’s choice if they want to use their military in other parts of the world. They (for the most part) disagree with the interventionist ideology of the United States (which is quickly dragging us down — we’re hurting ourselves), but are willing to engage in United Nations sanctioned activity. The Europeans are smart not to be engaged in the kind of interventions we’re involved in.