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Transatlantic Bickering over Afghanistan

Another example for increasing tension within NATO: Karen DeYoung describes in the Washington Post how unnamed European and North American officials praise their troops' contributions and highlight their sacrifices in Afghanistan, while criticizing their NATO allies:

The United States supplies about half of the 54,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, they say, but the British, Canadians and Dutch are engaged in regular combat in the volatile south. "We have one-tenth of the troops and we do more fighting than you do," a Canadian official said of his country's 2,500 troops in Kandahar province. "So do the Dutch." The Canadian death rate, proportional to the overall size of its force, is higher than that of U.S. troops in Afghanistan or Iraq, a Canadian government analysis concluded last year. British officials note that the eastern region, where most U.S. forces are based, is far quieter than the Taliban-saturated center of British operations in Helmand, the country's top opium-producing province. The American rejoinder, spoken only in private with references to British operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, is that superior U.S. skills have made it so. (...)

U.S. and British forces have long derided each other's counterinsurgency tactics. (...) Britain, with a higher percentage of its forces deployed worldwide than the United States, is stretched thin in Afghanistan. Not only did the British have insufficient force strength to hold conquered territory, but the reconstruction and development assistance that was supposed to consolidate military gains did not arrive. "It's worth reminding the Americans that the entire British army is smaller than the U.S. Marine Corps," said one sympathetic former U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

J. Carter Wood recommended this interesting article (Thank you!) and points out in his blog Obscene Desserts that "someone at the Washington Post seems to think the German capital is still on the Rhine:"

Both President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates have toned down their public pressure on allies. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Bush at his Texas ranch in November, U.S. and German officials said, she told him that while Bonn would step up its contribution in quiet northern Afghanistan, any change in Germany's noncombat role would spell political disaster for her conservative government.


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Nomad on :

yeah, I know, I am in use to go on a marine conservative blog ; they are tired to get the whole responsability of the war and that the biggest part of the MSM are saying that the war isn't right, that they die for nothing or a lie at the beginning ; I think they want to be reassured, that their sacrifice is right, that the "selfish" Europeans support them. I don't blame them. What I usely try to make them understand, is that the decisions in that case are complicated in EU, cause of a devorant administration, cause of different sensibilities in policies, and that the number of our professional soldiers is limited ; as far as France is concerned, the army is a bit everywhere, Kossovo, Lebanon, Afghanistan, in lots of black african countries, that are our former colonies where troubles happen regularery

bashy on :

most people don't like war. a leader of a country can't run on public polls all the time. you have to decide if to do what is right, and help a country fighting for its survial, or only care if people like you. some of these european leaders need to take the time and explain to the people why this fight is so important. Italy needs the military to remove garbage in italy, so I guess you can count them out. IN the long run maybe nato should be no more. it is getting to be like the united nations worthless.

franchie on :

Bashy, I am on your side, UN is so corrupted and worth nothing, difficult to get the things done, when you know that your ennemies are also part of the same organisation. Nato, is getting obsolete, it was an end of WW2 organisation, to contain the communism expension ; the umbrella was the UStates ; now, geopolicy has changed ; Americans can't afford to stay the decisive gendarme of the western world ; we, as EU, should have the concern of our defense, UK and France have the nuclear bomb, there aren't enough carriers that could support a conflict elsewhere on the globe, cause we'll have to defend our ressources transport, in Ormuz detroit, in indian ocean, in atlantic... the goods are becoming expensive and rare, so better to watch out for the good travel of them... kind of Middle-Ages piracy times are becoming our every-day worry

Don S on :

Bon Homme, franchie. You have hit the nail on the head. Some Europeans find NATO both convenient and vexing because those shortsighted and morally blind Yankees can't see the obvious fact that the US national interest is identical to (pick one or more) European countries and therefore won't allow the infinitely wise Europeans to make all the policy decisions! The jumped-up little arrivistes won't focus on their traditional role of doing 80% of the legwork and taking 100% of the blame when things go legless, and insist on pursuing what they percieve (in their dim way) as their national interests. How evil!

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

[b]Nomad, Bashy, Franchie[/b] Thanks for reading and commenting on Atlantic Review. I think this year is crucial for NATO. If 2008 is like 2007, then NATO won't have much of a future. Perhaps you guys are interested in these related posts on Afghanistan and NATO [url][/url] [url][/url] [url][/url]

Kyle - Atlantic Review on :

One interesting aspect of 2008 is the upcoming NATO Summit in Bucharest. I wonder how much of an influence this conference will have on the future of NATO? As you say Joerg, 2008 will be important for the future of NATO, especially if questions of burden-sharing continue to pop up in Afghanistan. I wonder if the burden-sharing problems are not as big a deal as the media (including AR and I) like to make them seem. As the Washington Post article points out, some non-US countries are carrying a big load (although others like Germany are disappointing) - and France's talk about increasing its role in NATO and even sending troops to southern Afghanistan could be a big boost for the Alliance if realized. Either way, I am not so sure 2008 is a make-or-break year for NATO. Many countries recognize NATO is out of date and want to push reform, but realistically the Bucharest Summit will probably be limited in its outcome because of the looming US presidential election. Reform is imminent (and already underway, albeit slower than some would hope), but given the timing this year may not be the big year of NATO reform that many want.

bashy on :

Nato dosen't have much of a future. to be honest the kosovo conflict started the problem. now what ever nato wants to make a move, russia gets upset. russia has most of europe by the pipelines. we (the US) should drop the missile defense plans in eastern europe too. those countries can't make a move without russia breathing down their backs. putin will be there for along time and in charge just under a different title. what do you think of france putting a military base in the UAE?

Nomad on :

Bashy, well, I got the news yesterday that France is putting a military base in UAE. Me thinks, wether it's ment to protect the future nuclar civil implants there and or to prevent the Emirate from a shia-neighbouring agression. Something tells me that is also ment to survey the transport of oil in these aeras, that can't be done by the US militaries ; anyway, I am sure that this project has not been discussed unically between France and the UAE, but also with Bush administration. BTW, Nomad and Franchie are the same person, I use Franchie on the american blogs

Kyle Atwell on :

Regarding new UAE base in France, I tend to agree with this statement from Le Monde Diplomatique: "Cette création d’une base française dans le Golfe peut être interprétée comme un nouvel indice de l’alignement de M. Sarkozy sur la stratégie américaine au Proche-Orient." Overall, I am feeling increasingly positive about Sarkozy. We will see if he comes through with a) sending troops to southern Afghanistan, b) reentering NATO HQ

Kyle - Atlantic Review on :

LA Times reports: "In an unusual public criticism, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he believes NATO forces currently deployed in southern Afghanistan do not know how to combat a guerrilla insurgency, a deficiency that could be contributing to the rising violence in the fight against the Taliban. "I'm worried we're deploying [military advisors] that are not properly trained and I'm worried we have some military forces that don't know how to do counterinsurgency operations," Gates said in an interview." Gates also recently voiced frustration at NATO allies for not committing enough troops to Afghanistan, as written by Atlantic Review here:,-Fighting-Is-Necessary.html I am not sure it was appropriate for Gate's to bring up military strategy in the way he did, especially at this sensitive junction in the Afghan mission... it don't think this will be encouraging for France who is considering sending troops to southern Afghanistan, according to reports.

Kyle - Atlantic Review on :

Here is the LA Times link:,1,163569.story?track=rss

Nomad on :

Kyle, well, dunno if Gates statment will worry our military heads, not if they send there our best recrues as legionnairees, or special forces. BTW, our ancient militaries used to know how to fight guerillas, in Vietnam first, then in Algeria ; Should I recall that these army facts are studied in military academies in the US

Kyle -- Atlantic Review on :

If I recall correctly, France didn't do so well in Vietnam or Algeria. In fact, I am not sure there have been many cases of successful guerilla warfare. The US beat Britain, Spain beat Nepolian, Afghanistan kicked out Russia, we all know the story of our own Vietnams, etc. Although it takes time for the guerillas to wear down occupying forces, don't the guerillas always win? If this is true, then one should ask whether or not the NATO forces are facing a traditional "guerilla" conflict comparable to past examples of guerilla warfare.

Don S on :

"In fact, I am not sure there have been many cases of successful guerilla warfare. The US beat Britain, Spain beat Nepolian, Afghanistan kicked out Russia, we all know the story of our own Vietnams, etc. Although it takes time for the guerillas to wear down occupying forces, don't the guerillas always win?" Ask Che Guevera whether the guerilla's always win. Or Michael Collins (the Maestro of guerillas himself). Collins could have written the complete book on guerilla warfare had he survived the Irish Civil War. Collins pratically invented guerilla warfare in 1920, then fought again on the other side when the Republicans rose against the Free State in 1923. He didn't survive the latter war but his henchmen won against the guerillas using his strategy. I don't think one can call the US Revolution or the Spanish campaign proper guerilla warfare. The Spanish would never have rid themselves of Napoleon without the British army operating out of Portugal, although the Spanish irregulars certainly contributed they were not guerillas in the modern sense. A similar point applies to the US Revolution; the UK simply didn't have enough troops to even begin to hold the 13 colonies, and the important battles of the that war were mostly set-piece battles and sieges. Francis Marion may have fought using guerilla tactics but George Washington, Arnold, and Gates did not. Daniel Morgan used frontier tactics at Cowpens (South Carolina) but he beat Banestre Tarleton straight up. Not as sure about Afghanistan (which kicked the butt of the British Raj as well as the Russians). And the Boer War had guerilla aspects to it

Don S on :

"she told him that while Bonn would step up its contribution in quiet northern Afghanistan" Well that would seem to be Angela's doing, not that of the Post! I guess that explains the Afghanistan problem. Bonn is supplying 3000+ troops for Afghanistan, quite an effort for a smll city on the Rhine. I don't think any fairminded person could possibly ask Bonn for any more than that. So what is the rest of Germany doing in Afghanistan again? ;)

Kyle - Atlantic Review on :

"'It's worth reminding the Americans that the entire British army is smaller than the U.S. Marine Corps,' said one sympathetic former U.S. commander in Afghanistan." And whose fault is that? A simple comparison of defense budgets provides a hint...

Andy on :

Canadian View (from me). The USA has carried the world on it's back for 60 years, nuff said there! I bet the LA paper cherry picked one sentence and blew it out of proportion to increase pageviews and readship (advertising revenue). I would proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with any American, Brit, Aus, or Dutch to defend their nation as I would my own. I would never question or doubt that the USA would stand with me to defend mine. As a proud Canadian, I would gladly give my life defending the USA. I think it is deplorable that the media jumped at an opportunity to try to drive a wedge into an alliance that has stood fast for over 60 years just for a few bucks. Whether it is Normandy or Afghanistan, I will ALWAYS stand by my brothers / sisters in the USA and do what I can to defend them / assist them / back them up. The USA and Canada are almost one country ( I personally wish they were. One has the resources, the other population & economy. A perfect match) and always back one another, help one another. Whether it is 9/11 (just google "Gander") or Quebec ice storms, we have always been there for one another. I wish our stupid govt backed up the US in Iraq (but I am only 1 vote, sigh). But remember, like it or not. Want it or not. I will do what I can in the best interest of the best 2 countries in the world. I would die defending the USA gladly. I trust the USA, I love the USA, I count Americans as my own, and anywhere on this planet I would defend them as my own (man, woman, child).

Don S on :

Andy, Most Yanks feel the same about Canada. We can't say it as openly as you do because we don't wish to offend Canadian independence - which we honor.

Elisabetta on :

Abaondon the land of the true north proud and brave that gave us du Mauriers, Labatts, girls from Calgary and hockey -- not while there is a confused, heavily-armed, bored militia in Michigan...not on my watch...

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