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NATO's Difficulties to Get More Troops for Afghanistan

"Some of America's closest Nato allies have abandoned Washington on the key battleground of the War on Terror, the bloody struggle against Islamic militants for control of southern Afghanistan," writes The Times (HT: Kathy):
Five years after the world stood "shoulder to shoulder" with America in the aftermath of 9/11, The Times has learnt that many of the countries that pledged support then have now ignored an urgent request for more help in fighting a resurgent Taleban and its al-Qaeda allies. Turkey, Germany, Spain and Italy have all effectively ruled out sending more troops.
Captain's Quarters is one of many American blogs that makes a good point by saying "The same nations that scolded us over our supposedly unilateral approach now refuse to answer the phone when NATO calls on them to meet their pledges of troop support", but is wrong in suggesting that German troops should "redeploy" from the "quiet north" to assist NATO allies in the south. Sending additional troops is a fair demand, but redeployment makes no sense, since the north is far from being "quiet," and indicates a lack of appreciation for the hard and challenging work of the Bundeswehr in the north of Afghanistan. The impression of a "quiet north" is reinforced by the German defense ministry which refuses to tell German journalists about attacks against the Bundeswehr. Conservative bloggers have criticized that the media "emboldens the terrorists" and demoralizes the public by writing so much about the daily attacks in Iraq. Therefore, they should be glad that the German defense ministry keeps quiet about the attacks in the north rather than "helping the terrorists" and demoralizing the German public. Having said that, of course, the south is much more dangerous. Besides, the Bundeswehr mission does include assissting NATO allies in the south, when needed.

The Bundeswehr has been deployed in Afghanistan since January 2002. In February 2003 the Bundeswehr mandate was increased to a maximum of 2,500 troops and in October 2003 increased again to a maximum of 2,900 troops. Most European countries have contributed far less troops to Afghanistan in recent years. Britain has only recently increased its troop strength of 1,200 to 5,400 to re-establish order in the South.  Poland only promised a few days ago to finally increase its committment from currently 100 military police to 1,000 almost exclusively combat troops. Poland should be applauded for this huge contribution.
Simon Tisdall writes in
The Guardian about NATO's difficulties to get more troops and has this to say about Germany:
"Germany, with about 2,800 troops in Afghanistan, was already involved in "sharp-end" operations in the north and had quietly contributed special forces to counter-insurgency missions further south, said Constanze Stelzenmüller, a security specialist at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. "There is already a very robust engagement. And although there is public criticism, there is an understanding that we have to get the job done. What we are seeing is very usual. Nato can't quite bring itself to commit sufficient forces. But everyone knew that once Nato took over from the US, things would get a lot tougher. One reason is the drug trade. It is not a counter-insurgency on the scale of Iraq. It's more about money and local warlord power than ideology." Stabilising Afghanistan was "do-able", she said. And she predicted Germany would do more if necessary.
The pressure to provide more help to NATO in the south of Afghanistan has certainly increased, but the Bundeswehr does not have many troops or money to spare. Austria, Belgium, Norway and others could do more, see related post: NATO's Increasing Involvement in Afghanistan.


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Chris on :

Joerg, if the commanders need troops in the south, then the Germans should go. Especially if the reinforcing elements (Poland) are some time away. Now, the limited deployment capabilities of European armies is another story entirely. It should raise some concerns on the continent -- especially if the worst case assessments on our armed forces are accurate.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

I am not aware of any commander saying that the troops from the north should redeploy to the south. NATO needs additional troops.

Chris on :

Nor am I. I said if the commanders needed troops, then the Germans should go. My bias is that if troops are needed, the ones in the theatre are the best options. There is one source saying something like this. The story is behind an archive now, but here's the quotes I recalled when posting this. (FT 9/6/2006) "Tom Koenigs, the UN's special representative for Afghanistan, said Nato needed more troops and fewer restrictions on their freedom of manoeuvre. In particular, he said there were "around 71 caveats", which he argued were "too many and must be removed". Caveats limit the combat role of Germany's 2,800 troops and restrict them to Kabul and the north of the country. Nato can deploy them elsewhere only "under exceptional circumstances and on a temporary basis". Mr Koenigs, a German, added that the country's soldiers "must now accept having to go to the south". Both the local police and military were currently "hopelessly overstretched", he said. On Monday, the Netherlands confirmed that about 100 Dutch soldiers had been temporarily reassigned to the south to assist Canadian forces."

Don on :

'"around 71 caveats", which he argued were "too many and must be removed".' 71 caveats. Count 'em. Amazing, stupendous, jaw-dropping! But not surprising at all. This is the way that most 'just-war' activists would have western countries fight. Spot some enemies and do absolutely nothing until the military lawyers can be contacted and come to the phone to tell you precisely what you can and cannot do. By that time the enemy will either be gone or have killed you - but that is not a problem for the 'just-war' advocates, is it? No skin off their ass!

ROA on :

Don't count on Norway or Holland: From NRO: NATO troops from Norway are supposedly helping us in Afghanistan. The key condition, however, is that Norway’s troops must not be involved in any actual fighting, since Norway’s military is “not sufficiently trained to take part in combat and not properly equipped to do so either.” Now a new condition has been added . Not only must Norway’s troops not fight, they must not be moved to an area of the country where fighting is taking place, even though they would not actually be deployed in combat operations. At the root of the problem? “Long-standing sentiments against military action .” Perhaps we ought to have invaded Norway instead. And the Dutch are cowards as they proved in Srebrenica, where they permitted thousands of Muslim men and boys to be slaughtered without raising a hand. What is really interesting about this incident is that there was more world-wide outrage about a bound and blind-folded prisoner being transported from Afghanistan to Guantanamo than there was about the thousands of Muslims being led to slaughter by the Dutch.

clarence on :

Jorg, This reminds me of an exchange we had here a few months ago; do you understand [not agree, but simply understand] why some Americans do not view old Europe as an ally, and believe we should promptly withdraw from NATO?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Clarence, I do [i]understand [/i]it. Besides, I do [i]agree [/i]with you that this explains why many Americans don't view "old Europe" as an ally. Though, keep in mind that "new Europe" has contributed far less troops than old Europe to Afghanistan over the last few years. Poland's decision to send 1000 combat troops [i]soon[/i], is great and they deserve credit. However, I [i]disagree [/i]that this is a reason for "promptly withdrawal from NATO." What are the benefits of getting out of NATO? Would it help you in the war on terrorism? Would you get any more troops for Afghanistan if you were to pull out of NATO? NATO isn't straining your ressources, I believe. Perhaps someone could look up how many US troops are still on the Balkans. I think the bulk of NATO troops on the Balkans is European. What alternatives to your European allies do you have? How many Japanese troops are in Afghanistan? I am not aware of any. The US wanted (or still wants?) to give Japan a permanent seat at the UN. Why? Japan is not exactly famous for burden sharing. They just have a reputation for agreeing with the US. How many troops does India -- America's new best friend, it seems -- contribute to Afghanistan? I think India won't send any due to Pakistani sensitivities. Has your NAFTA partner and ally (?) Mexico sent any troops to Afghanistan? South Korea should be grateful for US protection for decades. Did they thank the US by sending troops to Afghanistan? (OK, I know they had (or still have?) some troops in Iraq.) Afghanistan is much closer to Japan, South Korea and India than to Europe, yet it is Europeans who supports you in Afghanistan. Not as much as you want, but more than anybody else. You can be fed up with your allies all you want -- [i]and often your anger and frustration is justified[/i] --, but at the end of the day you don't have an alternative to your European allies, I believe. The US is better off with imperfect allies than with none. P.S.: Any Australian troops in Afghanistan? Why don't they react to the increasing trouble there?

clarence on :

Jorg, It is late at night here (we are in the same time zone, I believe), so please excuse a brief reply. You wrote: "You don't have an alternative to your European allies." You are mistaken, on two counts. First, to write about "Europe", which confuses "old Europe" with East Europe. Secondly, to believe that DE, FR, and BE contribute anything at all to the USA. We can (and should) leave our "dependencies" who do not help us when we need leave them to fend for themselves. What we have learned, that was not understood even twenty years ago, is the total failure of communism: if Russia had conquered western Europe in 1946, it would not have been a more powerful country, it would have simply reduced more countries to the level of East Germany. We do not need Germany or France for our defense; we contribute far more to you than we receive in return, and that has been true for over forty years. You have a good point about Japan, and certainly S.K., but let us please stay within the topic of your website? That is another topic altogether. Your country is not an ally of the USA, and does not have the power to do us harm. We defend you (in NATO) with nothing of value in return. It is time to go........

JW-Atlantic Review on :

> It is late at night here (we are in the same time zone, I > believe), so please excuse a brief reply. Then write more tomorrow. :-) > First, to write about "Europe", which confuses "old Europe" > with East Europe. I already addressed the issue of how much East Europe has contributed to NATO in Afghanistan in the last few years. > We can (and should) leave our "dependencies" who do not help Is that another word for "colony"? The meaning of "allies" is different. Treating us like a colony just reinforces the common feeling among leftleaning Europeans that the US is not interested in a partnership with Europe, but only in leading: We decide, you follow. If you do not follow us, you are ungrateful and of no use. > We do not need Germany or France for our defense; we So don't complain about a lack of NATO troops in Afghanistan. > You have a good point about Japan, and certainly S.K., but > let us please stay within the topic of your website? That is > another topic altogether. What I wrote is: Europe is an imperfect ally. Burden sharing within NATO is not fair. However, what is your alternative? Do you have better allies? Do you think the Eastern European states can provide the troops that Old Europe can't? Look at their sizes and GDP. And look which country contributes how many troops to ISAF: [url][/url] The numbers have slightly changed. Britain and the Netherlands increased the number of troops. Poland will soon send 1000 combat troops (great). But still, look at the numbers and tell me that New Europe helps you more than Old Europe. I mentioned Japan and South Korea in order to ask you what alternatives outside of Europe you see. Why aren't those two Asian countries sending troops to Afghanistan, which is in Asia... What alternatives to Old Europe do you see? > We defend you (in NATO) with nothing of value in return. Perhapy you could elaborate how you are currently defending us... Public opinion has it that your recent policies have made us less secure. I am not saying I agree. I just would like you to elaborate on your statement a little bit.

clarence on :

Jorg, You obviously have the intelligence and the fluency to understand that a "dependency" is not a "colony". We don't give orders to or control Germany, but since 1946 Germany has depended on the US for its military defence. The difference, in English, is clear. I am astounded by your query "how you are currently defending us". Your question is sufficient to make my point: if you do not agree that he USA is defending Germany by our membership in NATO, then....why should we remain a member?? Why would you hesitate to agree that we should leave??? Please tell me what benefit the USA derives from NATO that is equal to our contribution. Bitte schön??

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Wikipedia says one meaning of "dependency" is "A former or current colony": I have answered your previous questions. And I will answer your new questions after you have answered my questions. Thank you! :-)

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Clarence, I am not saying the US should remain a member of NATO. If you think the thousands of European troops in Afghanistan are not helping you and that stability on the Balkans isn't in your interest, just leave NATO. I don't mind. I really don't. What bothers me is that constant complaining about NATO or the UN. Just tell your Congressmen and women to cancel US membership. "Please tell me what benefit the USA derives from NATO that is equal to our contribution." I already told you that burden sharing isn't fair within NATO. The world is not about fairness. You need to make a cost-benefit analysis regarding NATO. If it is negative, just leave NATO. Good luck with recruiting Japan or South Korea to substitute for your European allies.

Chris on :

I would love to see a thorough report on the battle-readiness of European militaries. If anyone is familiar with such a report, please point me in the right direction.

Isolationist on :

As you would expect from someone who calls himself Isolationist, I fully agree with Clarence. Given the power to do so, I would leave NATO as quickly as the troops and equipment could be brought home. However, I would like to change directions somewhat and ask another but related question. When will it be time to remove all of America's war dead from out cemeteries in Europe and bring them home for reburial? Europe is lost--all of it Old and New--to Muslim conquest and colonization. The fall of Europe is only a matter of time. It is also, therefore, only a matter of time until Europe's new Muslim masters, along with "white" Europeans trying to gain favor with the new rulers, run bulldozers over the graves of American soldiers killed in the Great War and World War II in Europe. I say again, it's only a matter of time until these remians are shamed in countless ways. As is the case on leaving NATO and had I the power to do so, I would start to bring these men home now, today, not tomorrow, while it is still possible to do so.

Olaf Petersen on :

Gentlemen, before we try to figure out how many of our soldiers should be deployed at all in Afghanistan, we should talk about NATO's goals and why we do not get more support from the countries in that region. I mean, Afghanistan is a small country amidst a central asian population of ~ 3 billion... 1) Why do all of Afghanistan's neighbors stay at the side-line? 2) Why don't the USA use all their influence and power to confront Pakistan with its obligations to implement all aspects of resolution 1371, especially the notorious transfer of support for the Taliban from Northwest Frontier Province and Waziristan to Afghanistan? At NATO's Istambul Summit 2004 Afghanistan was declared a (new) sphere of strategic responsibility. That means, of course, the deployment of armed forces there - but more: A sphere of strategic responsibilty is always embedded in a sphere of strategic interest! So if Afghanistan is the sphere of strategic responsibility, all of its neighbors become targets of NATO reconnaissance and espionage. Russia, China, Kasakhstan, Usbekistan, Kirgisia and Turkmenistan (SCO aka The Shanghai 6) strongly oppose(d) NATO's new ambitions in central asia. Iran, Pakistan, Mongolia and India, all of them supposed to join the SCO sooner or later, too. Given that, Afghanistan would become a NATO enclave in the middle of a huge central asian security alliance. So, Gentlemen, what do you think: How many troops will we need in Afghanistan in the long run? I'd bet that Afghanistan will also become member of the SCO, sooner or later. We cannot maintain troops there forever, for what reasons ever, when the whole region is against their deployment. Why not leave Afghanistan to the SCO? America never had to fight terrorists from SCO-member countries - all terrorists came from America's friends like Saudi-Arabia or Pakistan. That's why I don't understand the recent complaints about Europe's lack of assistance in the war against terrorism: We do support that and CENTCOM regards especially the German contributions as significant. But I'm afraid the USA will never achieve significant goals in that war unless it finally puts its precious friends in Saudi-Arabia and Pakistan under pressure. Remember this: 110,000 soviet soldiers were not enough to defeat the Afghanistan resistance - which was supported from Pakistan. How many soldiers would we need to defeat the Taliban - who are supported by Uncle Sam's dear friend, Pakistan?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Thanks for this comment, Olaf. Re Pakistan and Saudi Arabia: President Bush Discusses Progress in the Global War on Terror: "Instead, the governments they targeted -- such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia -- have become some of our most valuable allies in the war on terror." Most valuable allies? Who needs Europe, when you got such formidable allies like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia? In fact, who needs enemies, if you have allies like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

@ Olaf "Why not leave Afghanistan to the SCO?" Because that would mean losing the Great Game? Though, I don't know if there really is a New Great Game.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Clarence and others think Europeans aren't US allies anymore. And the Strategy Page goes a step further and briefly analysizes what happens "If United Europe Went to War With The U.S.A" Their conclusion: "The EU would come off second-best in a fight with the United States. That said, its second-place finish in a fight would be a very close second." [url][/url] A "very close second"? Jesus, I did not know that our paper tiger armies would be that powerful. ;-)

Olaf Petersen on :

The Great Game... The US-Forces have been kicked out of Usbekistan 2005 because the USA have flown out ~ 300 activists of islamist group Hizb ut Tahrir from Kirgisia to a safe third country - after the notorious Andican incident, where they tried to free their imprisoned comrades. Remember the scandal in Blackburn (GB), Condoleezza Rice wanted to visit a mosque of the Hizb ut Tahrir there, but in the very last minute the HuT slammed the door before Condy's nose. The HuT is probably the most important caliphate movement in the world - the SCO regards them as a terrorrist group, the HuT is banned in Germany as in most all of the countries in the world. With one big exception: The USA! Though the HuT declares the USA and Israel enemies, much of their activities seem to be in the interest of the USA: The HuT is even more hostile to Iran, China and Russia. Probably one of the reasons some nations accuse the USA of having 'double standards' in the war against terrorism...

Bill on :

Here is an interesting report from Deutsche Welle that was published on Sep 30, 2006. Thought that it may be useful for your readers AND it backs up what I and other readers have said so many times before about Berlin's less-than-satisfactory performance in committing German troops to combat roles vs. logistical support and "number of troops" in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Deutsche Welle (English site) 29.09.06 Defense Ministry Admits German Planes in Action in Afghanistan,2144,2190341,00.html German military aircraft are supporting NATO operations in volatile southern Afghanistan, a defence ministry spokesman said Saturday, confirming a report to appear in Monday's edition of the weekly Der Spiegel. The report came after Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung ruled out any possibility of transferring German troops from the north to help fight a dogged Taliban-led insurgency in the south. Der Spiegel said German Transall transport aircraft and helicopters had made some 60 flights this year into the south, ferrying allied soldiers and evacuating wounded. Secret mission a compromise in deployment discussions The weekly said the operation, hitherto kept secret, was largely aimed at deflecting pressure on Berlin to switch forces to the south from the more peaceful north, where it has some 2,750 troops deployed. The German parliament on Thursday agreed to extend the contingent's mission for another year, but Jung said it would be "totally wrong" to move troops from the north, where attacks had "almost doubled" in the past 12 months. ==================================== The DW report says that German Defense Minister Franz-Josef Jung refuses to send German Luftwaffe Tornado aircraft equipped with ECM/EW recon systems to the South in order to backup NATO combat forces. Any idea why Herr Jung would refuse to support NATO forces with reconnaissance aircraft? Is it too dangerous for Berlin or too costly?

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