NATO's efforts to create a stable, democratic, and secure Afghanistan, the
country remains unstable and highly insecure. Both the Afghan National Army and
the Afghan police forces are poorly organized, underfunded, inadequately
equipped, and prone to corruption and defection and therefore unable to
The radical Islamic Taliban regime has maintained influence in several regions of the country, hindering reconstruction programmes and democratisation. Violence is still omnipresent as the insurgency has increased its attacks on coalition forces and adopted tactics, like suicide attacks and roadside bombings, previously witnessed only in Iraq.
Initiatives to prevent hit-and-run actions by insurgents that are believed to conduct attacks against coalition forces from across the Pakistani borders, have increased tensions between Kabul and Islamabad. Furthermore, these initiatives encouraged Baitullah Mehsud, a prominent regional leader of the Taliban in Southern Waziristan, to call for a jihad against the international military presence in the Afghan-Pakistani border region.
Increased violence led President Hamid Karzai to negotiate with the Taliban, offering them amnesty and government positions in return for recognizing and adhering to the Afghan constitution in order to improve the security situation. So far this rapprochement has not produced any significant changes.
During the NATO Summit in Romania's capital in April this year, the alliance's member states pledged a long-term commitment to the mission in Afghanistan, that had, by then, largely turned into a forgotten conflict. However, member states perceived this long-term commitment as a political statement rather than an honest vow that implied practical commitments to the organization's efforts in the vulnerable country and emphasised the importance of enhanced Afghan leadership and responsibility instead.
At a moment that casualties among coalition forces in Afghanistan were increasing, the European Union expanded its current mission that provides for the training of Afghan police forces with an additional 200 police and law-enforcement personnel, as well as legal experts. Both Germany and France remain unwilling to dispatch their troops to the more dangerous eastern and southern regions of Afghanistan. Notwithstanding statements that the United States, Great Britain, and Australia - the latter not even a NATO member - will expand their current military presence in the war-torn country, the Canadian government announced to withdraw their troops from the unstable Kandahar province in 2011.
In the wake of the member states' unwillingness and the absence of substantial and long-t erm commitments to the ISAF mission, the security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated. As a consequence, reconstruction efforts are frustrated and systematically sabotaged, and too often left unfinished. Rising civilian casualties, often due to NATO air strikes, have increased discontent with the international military presence among the Afghan population and provides the fundamentalist Taliban with a large pool of potential recruits to engage in the insurgency's resistance efforts against NATO forces.
If Afghanistan is indeed perceived to be NATO's most important mission, all member states should act accordingly and transform their previously made political statements into substantial contributions. Failing to adequately address the daunting challenges that confront present-day Afghanistan will seal both the fate of the Afghan people and the fate of history's most successful military alliance.
Djörn Eversteijn holds a BA in European Studies and is currently a research trainee at the University of Amsterdam.
Related materials from the Atlantic Community:
- Interview with Hussain Haqqani: Pakistan's New Commitment to the War on Terror
- Marek Swierczynski: NATO is Trapped in Afghanistan
- Obama Stresses Security Policy with McCain