Afghanistan: The NATO Quagmire
by Sarah Meyer
The NATO merry-go-round in Afghanistan, driven by America’s announced withdrawal of 2,500 - 4,000 (of 19,500) troops in the spring of 2006, is in overdrive. The New York Times, in a recent article said that “Britain and the Netherlands will join Canada in assuming control in the south, along with a much smaller contingent of American support troops.” This is incorrect.
The Dutch government is in disarray about its NATO participation in Afghanistan, and their Parliament will not be making a decision until the end of this month. Various headlines since November have read: (Pak Tribune) Afghanistan is Netherlands’ most disastrous oversees mission; (Sunday Times) Afghan posting ‘too dangerous’ for Dutch army; and, from Agence France, Netherlands Puts Off Decision on Afghanistan Deployment.
As for Canadian Forces in the 21st century, CBC’s in-depth discussion of Canada’s military says there have been concerns that the “military is stretched too thin.” In August, the present Canadian troops in Afghanistan prepared to move out of Camp Julian near Kabul in November to “join the bulk of the force at a new base near Khandahar.” However, the Toronto Star said in December that “as British and Dutch stall, fears grow that Canadians will be left holding the fort.” In the end of December, Col. Bowles said the Canadians will “assume responsibility for Kandahar.” He also said that his force “is prepared to extend the offensive nature of the operation. It's clear that this is not a peacekeeping mission," he said. What, exactly, is this “offensive” plan? There are now unconfirmed rumours that 100 commandos from the elite Joint Task Force 2 are leaving for Afghanistan this month to “prepare the ground” for the 2000-member “battle” group.
In the UK, it was announced in September 05 that Britain would send more troops to Afghanistan, making a total presence of 5,000 UK troops under the NATO command of Lieutenant-General Sir David Richards.
In November, Ahmed Rashid reported in The Telegraph that in Kabul, the capital, 500 – 800 British troops will have NATO ‘peacekeeping’ command. In Kandahar, under Canadian control, 500 – 800 UK troops will also be deployed. In Helmand, SE Afghanistan, 1000 troops will be deployed in Lashkar gar in the spring. In theory, these troops will be backed by civilian engineers and other experts and diplomats,” and will fight opium trade growth and help with reconstruction. And finally, at another base in Helmand (? Camp Bastion?) a further 1000 will fight the Taleban ‘insurgency.’ According to Simon Tisdale Britain is ‘uncertain’ about support from Canada, Australia and New Zealand and there is disagreement about “operational issues and rules of engagement.” In a later Guardian article Tisdale writes that the European Union is “ill prepared to take on … responsibilities” in Afghanistan. At the end of December, Michael Evans writes in The Times that “Britain’s plans are being disrupted by political indecision within Nato.” Simon Jenkins, in an excellent overview of Britain’s role in Afghanistan in The Guardian, Called the UK troop additions “the half-baked product of Tony Blair’s global machismo,” calling the precipitant disaster “Britain’s new opium war.”
Australia, fearing Dutch lack of NATO commitment for logistics and protection, are in doubt about sending reconstruction teams to S. Afghanistan.
Denmark “confirmed the possibility” of an additional 190 soldiers, also to be sent to the Helmand province.
France has withdrawn her US + NATO commanded jet planes. There will be a total of 1250 French soldiers in Afghanistan. The Kabul mission will receive 450 new soldiers. There are already 200 French soldiers in the South of Afghanistan. France refuses any military duties.
Germany will expand its troops from 750 to 3,000. The Kashar World News says that 500 will remain in Kabul, whilst the rest will be based in Mazar-i-Sharif. Germany, like France, refuses military duties.
Lithuania will be leading a NATO-led PRT (Provisional Recontruction Team), joined by Croatia and Azerbaijan.
New Zealand pulled its 50 SAS troops out of Afghanistan. 94 Army, Navy and Air Force personnel will be in Bamyan until June 2006.
Sweden is to add 300 to its nearly 100 troops working on reconstruction in Mazar-i-Sharif, Northern Afghanistan, for a maximum of 2 years. There are now 11,000 ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) soldiers from 37 countries stationed in Afghanistan.”
Uzbekistan has asked both America and NATO to leave their country. This will affect Germany, who uses Termez as a “back-up base for its 2,250 troops in Afghanistan.”
To further complicate the situation, a SEDM (Southeastern European Defense Ministerial) meeting, prodded by Rumsfeld, decided that 11 countries will send a 400-member brigade to Afghanistan for 6 months.
Meanwhile, on January 3, The Washington Post headline announced: U.S. Cedes Duties in Rebuilding Afghanistan. The US budget will drop from $1b to $600m. The Afghanis will be expected to take on this task themselves (!). There are concerns amongst Afghan officials that America’s priorities are “shifting elsewhere.” Where is “elsewhere”?
A 2002 Asia Times article commented: “It should be understood that when Iranian leaders see the map of American bases tightening around us like a noose, they are absolutely sure that Washington’s primary goal is first to strangle us, then kill us off.” The present governmental and media propaganda on ‘nuclear’ Iran neglects the key factor, which is that Iran is the 4th largest producer of crude oil and the second largest natural gas producer. The US will not be pleased at the recent announcement that Iran is “nearing an accord” with Pakistan and India on a $7bn. pipeline project. UNOCOL had planned, in its central Asian’s pipeline project, backed by Zalmay Khalilzad, to go through Turkmenistan via Afghanistan to Pakistan
With shifting goalposts, 16,000 troops from various countries are still ‘on hold’ for Afghanistan ‘06. A recipe for disaster is in place.
All the participating countries have a different agenda and none share policy coordination. A “seamless transition” does not seem possible. Meanwhile, the propaganda drumbeats focused on Iran become louder.
Map of Gereshk, Helmand, Afghanistan
NATO in Afghanistan
Ahmed Rashid, BBC, Nato’s Afghanistan Troop Dilemma
Index on Afghanistan
Sarah Meyer: http://indexresearch.blogspot.com
can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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