February 15, 2007

More US troops to Afghanistan - What of NATO?

Reuters photo According to a news report, President Bush has ordered that an additional U.S. Army brigade (3,200 troops) be deployed to Afghanistan instead of Iraq. The reason given is to beef up American and NATO forces in the country in preparation for a spring offensive against the Taliban and Al-Qai'dah remnants.

In addition, a brigade that is scheduled to return home will be extended in Afghanistan for an additional four months to maintain the higher level of American troops there.

What is going on?

Last month, the President announced that he was going to deploy an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq. In the middle of that "surge" a brigade is being diverted to Afghanistan. Why? The situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated sharply since American forces turned over primary responsibility for military operations to NATO.

NATO troops, for the most part, are good, but they're not at the same level as American troops. Since the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, NATO countries have been cutting back on their already low levels of military spending. NATO military forces - actually units drawn from the member countries' militaries - have had little upgrading and reduced training opportunities. This, of course, hurts readiness and force capabilities.

The so-called "resurgence" of the Taliban is a reflection of the replacement of U.S. forces with NATO troops. When NATO units arrived in the area, many of the countries placed restrictions and conditions on the use of their forces. For example, Germany refuses to allow deployment of its forces to the area where the Taliban is the strongest, the south and east of the country.

The lion's share of the toughest fighting is being done by troops from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. You might remember that when you plan your next vacation.

If the other NATO countries want to be treated like allies, they need to start acting like allies.