The Transatlantic Alliance’s Afghan Strains

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For some time now, transatlantic analysts have warned that the NATO deployment of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and US troops in Afghanistan is on the precipice of unraveling, and with that will usher in grave questions and implications for the future of NATO and transatlantic ties. Given Zbigniew Brzezinski’s pronouncement in his book Second Chance that the drift in transatlantic ties throughout the 1990s was one of two crucial meta-mistakes that undermined the US position globally, there is real cause for concern here.
It seems since the end of the Cold War, NATO has been seeking a new purpose or agenda aside from the friction of new rounds of expansion and the ever-present monitoring of the Balkans. Perhaps mounting tensions with Russia over a premature declaration of Kosovo independence, the missile defense deployments in Eastern Europe, threats of treaty-withdrawals and energy cutoffs can occupy the military alliance for some time, but it seems these will move more into the category of European problems away from a shared portfolio of threats that NATO once held.
For that, a challenge more geographically and conceptually global in nature is required, such as the one posed by the unsavory intersection of economically and politically disenfranchised populations, radical religious majoritarian movements, and weak or failing states (that which the “war on terror” label fails to capture). And of course Afghanistan is the embodiment of this challenge (without the transatlantic scars that inhibit deeper cooperation in Iraq). But if the ISAF in Afghanistan crumbles under the assault of domestic politics, it could signal the beginning of the end of the alliance.


Canada is a thread that could likely unravel the entire transatlantic tapestry. Because of public opinion pressure, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper needs some troop commitments from other nations, principally European forces that are perceived to be hiding behind national caveats that limit their deployments throughout the country, particularly the hot zones of Helmand, Kandahar, and Uruzgan.
Secretary Gate’s January remarks, though they did not help matters, are not the fundamental reason why European allies are hesitant to commit further troops. Though they too face hostile public opinion, more importantly, I suspect they’re not convinced the US is willing to make the critical policy changes — on counter-narcotics, Pakistan, and Iraq — they believe are necessary to succeed in Afghanistan and justify their assumption of new political and strategic risks.
A fundamental aspect of this is the failed counternarcotics policy that has repeatedly been criticized by Europe, most notably Britain which is supposed to be in charge of counternarcotics. And after six years of such a policy, the US wants to double down on their failed policy with eradication as its centerpiece by pushing for aerial spraying. Most European capitals are opposed to this approach because as a leading researcher has concluded, “eradication first” efforts have empirically failed and often been counterproductive with counternarcotics undermining broader counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts.
If the US could acknowledge not only the failures of its dogmatic counter-narcotics but the international political fallout from it, it might consider trading in its long-standing insistence on chemical spraying as a bargaining chip with Europe for more troops, more flexibility on national caveats, or — as Sen. Lieberman has suggested — funding for an international trust fund to grow and sustain the Afghan National Army that could gradually assume some of the duties of the ISAF.
Ultimately, the survival of the alliance will depend on concessions across the Atlantic that commit ones relative weight in manpower or treasure but also consider each others’ strategic and political concerns.
— Sameer Lalwani

Comments

7 comments on “The Transatlantic Alliance’s Afghan Strains

  1. arthurdecco says:

    “Precision strikes against specific targets, hunting capturing, or killing every jihadist mass murderer, and all those who aid and abet them on the planet, and cutting off the abundant funding and nurturing flowing out of Saudi Arabia are the only ways to defeat this enemy.” posted by TonyForesta
    In regards to my first post, TonyForesta, I apologize unreservedly if you were left with the impression that I was putting words in your mouth. In fact, I was using a phrase, “Bomb them into the Stone Age”, that has been used a gazillion times to describe Amerika’s penchant for Air Wars – air war strategies you were advocating for in your post. I should have simply quoted you in more detail but I was lazy and late for an appointment and I wanted to reply while my griddle was hot. That’s not an excuse – it’s an explanation.
    Now, in regards to the quote I reproduced above: When are you going to realize that the people attacking the United States and its’ armed forces aren’t your enemies? They’re your government’s enemies and the enemies of those who control your government. It really is that simple.
    Remove the source of their rage and you won’t have to spend a dime “hunting capturing, or killing every jihadist mass murderer, and all those who aid and abet them on the planet”. They’ll stop all on their own, (SNAP!), just like that.
    You can then spend the trillions you’ll save helping your fellow Americans through the bad times hurtling at you and the rest of us like a runaway train.
    And as far as your paragraph on Israel/Palestine goes, I agree with you. You might want to re-read what I wrote before lambasting me for saying something I didn’t say. 😉

    Reply

  2. Tony Foresta says:

    You can talk about “Bomb em into the Stone Age!” if you so desire authurdecco, but you dannot put those words into my mouth. The strategies I mention are already in play in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Precision strikes against specific targets, hunting capturing, or killing every jihadist mass murderer, and all those who aid and abet them on the planet, and cutting off the abundant funding and nurturing flowing out of Saudi Arabia are the only ways to defeat this enemy. We will never win the hearts and minds muslim nations. The fascists in the Bush government have tarnished forever the image of America. Any furture American leadership will be hard pressed to win the hearts and minds of any other nation, and no muslim nation will ever look to America as the leader of the free world and beacon of hope for justice, equality, the rule of law, and prosperity. Your living in the past arthurdecco.
    Finally, you might want to check on your facts because Israel is an occupying force in “Palestine, and hense you prove my point. These invasion and occupation scenario’s are bloody costly, impotent and fruitless strategies to defeat insurgencies. If the governments intention is suppressing, slaughtering, and enslaving the victim nations people, and marauding the victim nations resources, and profiteering wantonly in and from the process, and heaping the terrible costs in blood and treasure on it’s own people – then invasions and neverending occupations are the perfect option – hense Palestine, and Iraq.
    “Deliver us from evil!”

    Reply

  3. arthurdecco says:

    By all means, do as TonyForesta suggests – adopt the strategies that are working so well for the Israelis:
    “Predator, F-16, or and cruise missile strikes are far less costly in blood and treasure, and more effecient in eliminating threats, – then deploying, supplying, and supporting tens of thousands of our brave young service women and men roaming the hostile lands of muslim nations. American soldiers will never be welcomed as an occupying force in any muslim land. This or that tribe will be more than happy to accept our oppulent bribes, cache’s of American conventional weapons, commmunications systems, and intelligence this or that tribe uses to advance the best interests of this or that tribe, and defend against opposing tribes or forces.”
    Yeah sure, that’s the way to win the hearts and minds of your opposition. We can see the evidence of that in that grand laboratory study of the effects of state terrorism on a civilian population we all know as Gaza.
    How many Americans are left who reject the over-riding idiocy of “Bomb em into the Stone Age!”? Or are over-the-top violence and Machiavellian subterfuge the only options left to you after decades of moral turpitude and believing in the lies your televisions tell you?
    Why not, instead of murdering those who are sickened by the thuggish and criminal actions of your government and it’s controllers standing in the shadows, leave them alone to live their lives out in the ways they choose?
    Oh my gawd! What a concept! Allowing others the freedom to choose for themselves how they wish to live their lives!
    What an anti-American concept.

    Reply

  4. TonyForesta says:

    Afghanistan will not be won by thousands of troops in uniform roaming the netherreaches of Waziristan, the Himalaya’s, regions that have never been conquered by any empire, in American uniforms. These are battles that must be won silently and without the enemy knowing who or where the hated Americans operate. Intelligence, covert ops, secret squirrels, ninja’s – these are the forces necessary to eliminate jihadits threats. The full force of the American military supports there efforts and if a large contingent of troops, or air support are required, – the uniformed forces can and will respond. Afghanistan is a holding action. Neither side can claim victory, and each side is entrenching positions, defending assets, and striking at the respective enemy forces, – but nothing is won. Predator, F-16, or and cruise missile strikes are far less costly in blood and treasure, and more effecient in eliminating threats, – then deploying, supplying, and supporting tens of thousands of our brave young service women and men roaming the hostile lands of muslim nations. American soldiers will never be welcomed as an occupying force in any muslim land. This or that tribe will be more than happy to accept our oppulent bribes, cache’s of American conventional weapons, commmunications systems, and intelligence this or that tribe uses to advance the best interests of this or that tribe, and defend against opposing tribes or forces. The singular and exclusive intent of the the Bush governments predation, tyranny, and wanton profiteering in Iraq, is marauding, commandeering, and controlling the 4th largest oil reserves on the planet.
    The true central front on the socalled neverendingwaronterror is in the hinterlands bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan, (which the fascists in the Bush government have woefully ignored) and in the prodigious financing and nurturing of jihadist islam and all the jihadist mass murder gangs flowing profusely out of Saudi Arabia. Redress these three interconnected broods and regions appropriately, and the jihadist threats will be methodically reduced to packs of primitive, perverted cavemen throwing stones.
    Tragically, failing to redress these three broods and regions appropriately (sans the costly bloody neverending invasions and occupations) – and eventually one or another jihadist mass murder gang will acquire and then deliver some kind of WMD to an occidental city with no restraint or hesitation.
    Without financing, the ability to plan and execute military operations is proportionately limited. The same underlying math is applicable to America as well.
    “Deliver us from evil.”

    Reply

  5. PoliticalCritic says:

    Great news for Obama. Eliot Spitzer is a superdelegate who has endorsed Hillary Clinton. When Spitzer resigns, the Lieutenant Governor, David Paterson will take office. I believe Paterson would be the first African American to hold the position of Governor of New York. There’s a good chance he endorses Obama.

    Reply

  6. db11 says:

    that should read ‘your analysis’ of course. Sorry!

    Reply

  7. db11 says:

    As one of those Canadians putting pressure on Harper to get out
    of Afganistan, I agree with you’re analysis of the dynamics
    threatening the Nato alliance.
    Most Canadians are pissed that we have squandered our
    reputation as a peace-keeper (by engaging in aggressive war in
    Afganistan) in order to assauge the US for not going to war in
    Iraq.
    In fairness to Harper (not that he deserves it), Cretien was the
    one the made the original commitment to Afganistan, then
    Harper re-upped when he became PM.
    My view is that there is zero military/security value for us to be
    there, and if the rationale is humanitarian intervention, then we
    should be in Darfur rather than Afganistan.
    Given that there has been no concerted effort to track/capture
    Bin Laden (the primary rationale for the original invasion), what
    the f*** are we still doing there? Mediating in a centuries-old
    conflict between competing war-lords in an ever-shifting flux of
    alliances and cycles of revenge? What for?

    Reply

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