evaluating the NATO-Afghanistan situation as a whole, it should not be
forgotten that the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit tasked the Secretary General with the
development of a new strategic concept, based for the first time on a
transparent and open public discussion.
Significantly, this was the first time that the international community was given the chance to assess confidential material at this level of command - later declassified and published by the Washington Post - when ISAF Commander General Steven A. McChrystal stepped out of NATO command under his US hat to deliver the material to the national authority. This act proves that contemporary international policy in the age of globalization is under the strict scrutiny of the media and public opinion. Therefore, the decisive points of Afghan operations and the enemy's center of gravity are publicly well known.
These facts notwithstanding, NATO's public opinion campaign concerning the serious course of action that should be undertaken regarding the war in Afghanistan is insufficient. NATO and Non-NATO Troops Contributing Nations authorities face a very hard decision and its time-frame is unclear due to the lack of nations' support for the war.
R. Chandrasekaran and G. Jaffe explain in the Washington Post that "McChrystal intends to use the 30,000 U.S. reinforcements authorized by Obama and as many as 7,000 soldiers pledged by other NATO nations to protect key cities and towns in the southern and eastern parts of the country, where the Taliban insurgency is strongest. By focusing on securing population centers, he hopes to reverse enemy momentum, foster more responsive local government and, where possible, persuade Taliban fighters through a mixture of pressure and incentives to lay down their arms." Thus, planning for who and when these capabilities will be provided seems less problematic, since "Many of the things we are talking about, we have already started," said Brig. Gen. John Nicholson, who until last summer oversaw the military reconstruction effort in southern Afghanistan.
In order to avoid further waste of resources, a few recommendations might be given:
- In light of the new US strategy, the operational concept for the ISAF mission should be revised. The NATO defense planning process should be directed towards a broader international community with the aim of altering base assumptions, with accurate assessments of the present strategic situation. It should show critical shortfalls and even a permanent lack of capabilities in some areas that hamper the completion of the ISAF mission.
- Allies deploying troops to ISAF follow the NATO Force Generation Process (FGP), which is viewed as a mechanism for improving overall capabilities. However, in reality, FGP often serves in the theater only as the mechanisim by which nations' flags show up, regardless of deployed troops' inability to conduct required tasks. This process also reqires urgernt review.
- Not all NATO members properly understood that the Afghan War is not only a US war: after 9/11, Article 5 was invoked by the consensus of all NATO Nations. Therefore, NATO Commanders must be covinced that they are doing the right job and National Contingents should follow ISAF operational plans.
It is worth stressing one extremely negative
and disheartening factor towards the accomplishment of the mission, officially
known as 'national caveats.'
Their presence creates a situation where National Contingent forces are hampered
by a lack of core capabilities to conduct planned tasks; and moreover, in
the international community, they undermine the fragile unity of command and of
Shaping the strategic and operational mission's future by coordinating activities with IOs, NGOs, the NATO Training Mission, and US-led Coalition Command with special focus on Afghan National Security Forces development is therefore strongly recommended. NATO must understand that now is the last chance to prove, and even enhance its credibility.
Dr. Eng Jerzy Deren is a retired colonel conducting independent research on international security and a visiting professor. He dealt with strategic planning and spent several years in hot spot regions with the UN, OSCE and NATO, including SME post with NATO's advisory team to Afghan Minister of Defence A.R. Wardak. He contributed to development of the Afghan National Security System.
Related Materian from Atlantic Community:
- Jorge Benitez: Next Step for NATO: Cohesion After Bratislava
- Sebastian Bruns: Rasmussen Set to Reinvigorate NATO
- Christopher Lee Davis: Think Tank Analysis: Five Steps for Success in Afghanistan