NATO Allies in Europe Must Do More in Afghanistan

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NATO Allies in Europe Must Do More in Afghanistan

December 3, 2009 22 min read Download Report
Sally McNamara
Sally McNamara

Sally McNamara is a Senior Policy Analyst in European Affairs.

Executive Summary

Abstract: President Barack Obama recently announced a new strategy to lead the 43-nation NATO International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan to victory. Upon the request of General Stanley McChrystal, President Obama has ordered the deployment of 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan in the coming months. He also announced the drawdown of U.S. troops beginning in July 2011. It is vital that America's NATO partners also step up to the plate by providing additional combat troops, equipment, and political support for General McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy. For too long, ISAF has been short-changed militarily and politically by Continental Europe. The United States and the United Kingdom have been forced to shoulder an unfair share of the burden for the mission in Afghanistan, losing disproportionate amounts of blood and treasure.

At the end of August, U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, advised the Obama Administration that the mission in Afghanistan "will likely result in failure"[1] unless the U.S. and NATO implement a new counterinsurgency strategy backed by a significant surge of up to 80,000 additional U.S. troops.[2] Importantly, he noted that, given the right strategy, success in Afghanistan is achievable.[3] Having taken three months to reach a decision, President Barack Obama has announced a surge of 30,000 U.S. troops and has appealed to the NATO allies to contribute additional troops and resources.[4]

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Brussels on December 3 to meet with NATO foreign ministers to discuss Europe's contribution to the new strategy for Afghanistan. A surge of 40,000 troops will give General McChrystal's strategy a greater chance of succeeding with less risk to the deployed troops. Therefore, it is critical that NATO's European members send at least 10,000 additional troops together with critical enablers and other resources that General McChrystal identified by as necessary for victory.

With a few honorable exceptions, NATO's European members--especially France, Germany, Italy, and Spain--have underresourced the U.N.-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan from the start. They have provided too few troops with too many national caveats on their deployments. Furthermore, their support for the civilian component of the comprehensive strategy approved at NATO's Bucharest summit in 2008 has been woeful, despite a stated eagerness to forgo combat missions in favor of aid and development projects.

At the Bratislava defense ministers' summit in October, two European NATO members stated that Europe was waiting to see President Obama's direction before deciding whether to provide additional resources for Afghanistan.[5] President Obama's limited resourcing of General McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy means that additional European contributions will likely be decisive to the war effort. The European commitment to Afghanistan must be increased in several ways if General McChrystal is to have a realistic chance of succeeding. These contributions will need to include additional combat troops, police trainers, embedded training teams, and helicopters.

The Gap Between NATO's Talk and Actions

President Obama came to power pledging that his cooperation and consultation with America's allies would be greater than his predecessor's.[6] However, he has quickly found that President George W. Bush's inability to secure greater Continental European contributions to the mission in Afghanistan was not because of his supposed "unilateralism," but because of Europe's lack of political will to fight long wars abroad. In spite of President Obama's high personal approval ratings among Europeans, he did not receive the much-needed additional commitment of combat troops at the Strasbourg-Kehl summit in April, and he did not unify the alliance around his "spring surge" strategy for Afghanistan.[7]

Stung and frustrated by NATO's lack of commitment, President Obama has excluded the NATO allies almost entirely from his decision on General McChrystal's strategy for Afghanistan. British Defense Secretary Bob Ainsworth recently took the unusual step of publicly criticizing the President for his lack of decisiveness on this matter.[8]

Despite the change in tone and style from his predecessor, President Obama has experienced exactly the same conspiracy of reluctance that President Bush faced in seeking more equitable burden sharing for the Afghanistan mission. Since October 2006, when NATO assumed full responsibility for Afghanistan's security, the U.S. has repeatedly attempted to secure greater European input for both military and civilian operations in Afghanistan. The contributing nations have had ample opportunity to make their voices heard through the countless NATO summits, ministerial meetings, bilateral discussions, strategy sessions, speeches, conferences, and compacts.

It is therefore disingenuous to attribute the problems that ISAF is experiencing in Afghanistan to too few opportunities for the allies to consult. Rather, NATO has repeatedly agreed to strategies for Afghanistan but then failed to provide adequate resources. The comprehensive approach, which was endorsed at the heads-of-state level in Bucharest in April 2008, is a striking example of this disconnect.[9] The alliance endorsed a strategy for a greater civilian-military footprint in Afghanistan, but after a short-term surge of largely American and British troops to combat the Taliban's spring offensive, ISAF's overall strength was almost the same in October as it had been in April. No additional Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) have been created since April 2008.[10]

At the October 2009 defense ministerial summit in Slovakia, NATO endorsed General McChrystal's assessment of the mission but specifically refused to commit resources toward his recommendations. However, NATO did adopt four priorities that fully underscore General McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy:

  1. Protection of the Afghan population;
  2. Increasing the size and capacity of the Afghan security forces;
  3. Coordinating international and Afghan efforts to improve governance in Afghanistan; and
  4. Taking a regional approach to the mission by engaging Afghanistan's neighbors, particularly Pakistan.[11]

The alliance also stressed the need to better coordinate and fully resource the training of Afghanistan's security forces through the NATO Training Mission for Afghanistan (NTM-A).[12] However, as with previous tactics and strategies endorsed by NATO, the alliance seems to have adopted the plan without acknowledging the vast resources needed to implement it.

Location of NATO Forces

At present, ISAF's total strength of 71,030 personnel is split unevenly among regional command centers in Kabul (the capital), Kandahar in the South, Herat in the West, Mazar-e-Sharif in the North, and Bagram in the East.[13] By a large margin, the South and East are the most volatile areas of Afghanistan, accounting for the vast majority of insurgent attacks. Helmand, Kandahar, Pakitka, Ghazni, Zabol, Uruzgan, and Khost average the greatest number of daily insurgent attacks.[14]

Providing Security in <TaxonomyNode id='{B0ED56D4-C366-4054-A3D4-701B73FC8118}'>Afghanistan</TaxonomyNode>

The Dutch, British, and Canadians rotate lead nation status for the 36,500-man deployment in southern Afghanistan, supported by American, Australian, Bulgarian, Polish, Estonian, Danish, Romanian, and Slovakian deployments. The United States acts as the lead nation for the 18,300-man deployment in eastern Afghanistan, supported by the Czechs and New Zealanders.

By contrast, the North and the capital have been largely stabilized, accounting for the fewest security incidents, although instability has started to creep into some areas in these regions, such as Kunduz and Wardak. Western Afghanistan experiences greater numbers of insurgent-initiated attacks than the North, but far fewer than the South.[15]

Germany leads the 5,700-man Mazar-e-Sharif deployment in the North, supported by Swedish, Hungarian, and Norwegian troops. Italy leads the 4,400-man Herat deployment, supported by Spanish, American, and Lithuanian troops, and France rotates leadership of the 6,130-man Kabul deployment with Turkey and Italy.

The 43,800 troops from the U.S. and U.K. comprise more than 60 percent of the total ISAF contingent. By year's end, the U.S. will have 68,000 troops deployed, operating either under ISAF command or as part of the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom.[16] The additional 30,000 troops announced by President Obama will further increase the American military footprint in Afghanistan as they steadily insert into theater through 2010.

In contrast, the "big four" Continental powers-- France, Germany, Italy, and Spain--provide just 11,255 troops combined. Excluding the U.K., the remaining 20 NATO-EU members provide 20,083 troops.

Troop Losses. The location tends to determine the nature of a nation's deployment. For example, British, Canadian, and Dutch troops in Helmand and Kandahar have faced some of the fiercest fighting of the entire campaign, while German troops in the northern provinces undertake a largely peacekeeping role. This is reflected in the wildly uneven troop losses among the ISAF nations.

The U.K. has lost more men--235 soldiers killed, almost exclusively in Helmand--than all other NATO-EU members combined. In comparison, 210 Czech, Danish, Estonian, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, and Spanish servicemen have died in Afghanistan. In Helmand and Kandahar alone, 547 troops have died, primarily British (209), Americans (194), Canadians (104), and Danes (24).[17] (See Table 1.)

Current Troops and Casualties in <TaxonomyNode id='{B0ED56D4-C366-4054-A3D4-701B73FC8118}'>Afghanistan</TaxonomyNode>

Caveats. Although NATO closely guards the comprehensive list of national caveats on deployments, the operational and maneuverability limits placed on troops and equipment is a significant problem for ISAF commanders. These limits on ground forces and what they can do adversely affect operations in Afghanistan.

In a press conference in 2006, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) General James Jones said that there were 102 national restrictions on the deployments in Afghanistan.[18] Testifying before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee in June 2009, current SACEUR Admiral James Stavridis stated that there are 69 caveats.[19] Troops from countries with few or no national caveats--including Denmark, Poland, the U.K., and the U.S.--are largely based in the South. Germany, Italy, Spain, and Turkey are reportedly among the worst offenders.[20] Notable caveats include the following:

  • German troops are restricted to conducting operations in northern Afghanistan before nighttime and never more than two hours away from a well-equipped hospital;[21]
  • Turkish troops are restricted to Kabul;[22]
  • Southern European troops are barred from fighting in snow;
  • Troops of one unidentified member country are required to consult their national government before deploying within one kilometer of the Pakistani border; and
  • One unidentified member country prohibits troops from other nations from flying in its aircraft.[23]

A further problem with caveats is that they are occasionally unofficial, unwritten, and not declared until an operation is underway.[24]

What Europe Can and Should Do

In his report to President Obama and to NATO three months ago, General McChrystal stipulated that the U.S. and NATO have a 12-month window of opportunity to turn around the worsening situation in Afghanistan and defeat the insurgencies.[25] In a special address to the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) in London in October, he stated: "We need to reverse the current trends and time does matter. Waiting does not prolong a favorable outcome. This effort will not remain winnable indefinitely."[26]

One of the primary reasons for the lack of progress since 2001 is the underresourcing of operations.[27]

With just nine months remaining on General McChrystal's timetable, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will be a key player in ensuring additional European commitments for the mission in Afghanistan. As President Obama stated in outlining his strategy for Afghanistan, "this burden is not ours alone to bear. This is not just America's war."[28]

Secretary General Rasmussen needs to continue his informal "direct diplomacy" tour of the allies. He has already visited Budapest, Ljubljana, London, Berlin, Oslo, and Bratislava in recent weeks, pressing individual nations on what resources they can and will deploy to Afghanistan. As the former prime minister of a geographically small country who committed combat troops to both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, Secretary General Rasmussen can speak with authority to national leaders about domestic political pressures and the necessity of winning this war.

Rasmussen and Obama must continue to reinforce the message that the burden for Afghanistan is not one that the United States can or will shoulder alone. As U.N. Special Representative for Afghanistan Kai Eide stated bluntly at the NATO summit in Bratislava, "[A]dditional international troops are required…. [T]his can not be a U.S. only enterprise. There has to be contribution from other troop contributors, and in particular the Europeans."[29]

Political Will. There is a sense of despondency over troop losses among Europeans, matched with a pervasive sense that the war cannot be won. European leaders need to counter the public perception that it is an unwinnable war of choice and help to shape public opinion in favor of bolstering NATO troop levels.

European officials could more easily convince their publics about the necessity of fighting in Afghanistan if President Obama would make an unequivocal statement on European soil about the stakes of winning in Afghanistan. President Obama has visited Europe multiple times since his election, as have Vice President Joseph Biden, Secretary of State Clinton, and other senior officials. Now is the time for the Administration to leverage its strong public diplomacy investment and realize tangible gains in the form of troops, equipment, money, and political support from Europe for the mission in Afghanistan.

The Obama Administration's long debate about the new strategy for the war has already reduced the President's credibility among the NATO allies. For example, while waiting for the results of his long deliberations on General McChrystal's recommendations, the alliance postponed a major force generation conference on Afghanistan planned for November.[30] It is important for President Obama to reverse the impression, growing among the allies, that he lacks the commitment to "finish the job."[31]

Specifically, in December, President Obama should give a major speech in London solely on the issue of Afghanistan. President Obama is already scheduled to be in Copenhagen and Oslo in early December and should add London to his itinerary because the U.K. is the largest European contributor of troops to Afghanistan. President Obama should call on other NATO members to follow the example of Britain, which has deployed 9,000 combat troops without national caveats. He should also lay out the risks of failure in Afghanistan, both for international security and for the future of NATO.

Combat Troops. In his report, General McChrystal stipulated that 40,000-60,000 troops would give his strategy a medium chance of success and that 60,000-80,000 additional troops would maximize his strategy's chance for success as well as reduce the risks to NATO forces. The deployment of just 30,000 U.S. troops restricts the sheer geographical area that can be covered and, unless backfilled by other NATO allies, will fail to achieve a key NATO priority: protection of Afghan civilians.[32] A true counterinsurgency strategy can be implemented only with a higher troop-to-civilian ratio. Having endorsed General McChrystal's assessment at the October ministerial meeting, NATO has already given its political blessing to the strategy, but NATO's European members need to work with the United States to fully resource General McChrystal's recommendations.

Removing national caveats would provide some reinforcements to hotspots for troops already deployed in Afghanistan. For example, French troops based in Kabul could be moved further into the East. But additional troops are needed. Secretary General Rasmussen recently stated that he expects nations to pledge "substantially more forces" to Afghanistan.[33] Slovakia has already announced that it intends to double its 246-man contingent.[34] The U.K. will also increase its large deployment by 500 troops as well as 500 additional special forces.[35] However, Europe needs to substantially boost its contribution, above the 5,000 troops that Secretary General Rasmussen expects to announce later this month.[36]

Almost all nations in the alliance have additional combat forces that could be deployed to Afghanistan--especially France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Turkey. Albania and Croatia also have spare capacity to boost their relatively modest deployments, which would demonstrate their willingness as the newest members of the alliance to provide as well as to consume security.[37]

In addition to providing combat forces, these nations should supply critical enablers to increase the efficacy and flexibility of these troops where possible. Their deployments should be announced and arranged sooner rather than later.

President Obama and Secretary General Rasmussen should make it clear that France and Germany's provisional announcement that they will wait until January to consider additional troop requests is unacceptable, especially in light of General McChrystal's pressing timeline for action.[38] Secretary Clinton should make it a top priority to press Berlin and Paris on this matter during her visit to Brussels and hold French President Nicolas Sarkozy to his statement that this strategy gives "new momentum" to ISAF's mission in Afghanistan.[39]

Considering the vital need for additional European combat troops in Afghanistan, the Netherlands should reconsider its planned withdrawal of forces on December 1, 2010. The Dutch have led the ISAF mission in Uruzgan, the province directly north of Kandahar, and have achieved notable successes working alongside Australian troops and local Afghan leaders. Since 2006, 16 Dutch soldiers and nine Australian servicemen have given their lives in Uruzgan.[40] Defense Minister Eimert Van Middelkoop is currently considering whether to withdraw the entire 1,450-man deployment--in accordance with a recent motion by the Dutch Parliament--or to move the troops to another part of the country.[41] It makes little sense to withdraw operationally tested soldiers with local knowledge, who have made significant progress and have earned the trust of local people, and move them to an unfamiliar province for reasons of domestic politically expediency.

Central and Eastern Europe. It remains to be seen whether the Obama Administration has any credibility to seek additional combat troops from Poland and the Czech Republic after its shameful decision to abandon the missile defense deal with Warsaw and Prague. This problem extends to the Baltic nations, which will have difficulty committing significant defense resources to Afghanistan when they have little confidence in the alliance's Article V guarantees. For example, NATO has still not formally responded to Russia's recent simulation of a nuclear attack on Poland.[42]

Central and Eastern Europe have long sought more than mere reassurances about the indivisibility of transatlantic security but have failed to secure tangible deliverables on this goal, such as contingency planning or the permanent stationing of U.S. troops in the region. President Obama's apparent willingness to trade away the "third site" missile defense installations at Moscow's behest has exacerbated this nervousness and discouraged greater participation in the American-led operation in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, this provides an opportunity for Poland and the Czech Republic to demonstrate their commitment to NATO's first operation under Article V. As NATO continues the negotiations for its new strategic concept, Warsaw and Prague will have greater authority to emphasize the importance of contingency planning for Article V operations if they have invested in the Article V operation in Afghanistan. Poland has provisionally indicated that it will send several hundred additional troops to Afghanistan and should be partnered by other leading nations in the region.[43]

Civil and Military Trainers. There is widespread agreement among the allies that the Afghan government needs the capacity and capability to provide more of its own security. The creation of a functional, non-corrupt security apparatus is essential for a successful counterinsurgency strategy and the long-term creation of an Afghan identity.

President Obama has emphasized General McChrystal's recommendation that Afghanistan's National Security Force (ANSF) should number 400,000, consisting of a 240,000-man Afghan army and a 160,000-man national police force.[44] Within the next year, General McChrystal aims to expand the Afghan National Army (ANA) from 94,000 to 134,000.[45] Considering his warning that the window of opportunity to defeat the insurgency is now just nine months, this will require an expeditious increase in the training of Afghanistan's security forces.

Afghan National Army. NATO currently has 59 Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams (OMLTs), each composed of 13-30 personnel, that train and mentor Afghan troops and accompany ANA trainees on missions. To reach existing projections of a 94,000-man ANA, nine more OMLTs are needed. Achieving General McChrystal's recommendation of a 134,000-man ANA by the end of 2010 will require 103 OMLTs.[46]

A number of Continental countries have the capacity to staff additional OMLTs for Afghanistan, especially those members of the alliance that have comparably small deployments, including Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Slovenia, and Turkey. Increased OMLT training and mentoring of the ANA should be complemented by the provision of modern equipment as the ANA seeks to upgrade its kit and weapons.

Afghan National Police. When the European Union launched its police training mission in Afghanistan in June 2007, NATO had high hopes that the EU would shoulder a large portion of the burden for the creation of a viable, non-corrupt Afghan police force. A fully functional police force is also a critical element of General McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy. However, the European Union has not been a serious player in training the Afghan National Police (ANP), nor will it be in the future unless major changes are implemented. As noted by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the EU Police Mission in Afghanistan is too small, underfunded, slow to deploy, inflexible, and largely restricted to Kabul.[47]

NATO members should therefore coordinate their efforts through the NATO Training Mission for Afghanistan, which was announced at the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit in April. The NTM-A will bring together the various training programs for both the ANA and ANP and will be led by a single commander, who is also responsible for the U.S.-led Combined Security Transition Command-- Afghanistan.[48]

Many European NATO members have home guard, paramilitary, and armed police resources that could provide the civil-military and paramilitary police training needed in Afghanistan. According to IISS's The Military Balance 2009, non-deployed capacity available within NATO member states includes:

  • French Gendarmerie,
  • Italian Carabinieri,
  • Luxembourgian Gendarmerie,
  • Dutch Paramilitary Royal Military Constabulary,
  • Portuguese National Republican Guard and Public Security Police,
  • Slovenian Armed Paramilitary Police and Reservists,
  • Romanian Gendarmerie,
  • Spanish Guardia Civil, and
  • Turkish Gendarmerie/National Guard and Reservists.[49]

AWACS and Surveillance Platforms. Controlling the skies in Afghanistan denies cover to the Taliban and gives allied forces critical advantages on the ground through real-time intelligence and communications. The modern Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) and other surveillance platforms can conduct around-the-clock reconnaissance and observation missions, covering very large areas of territory. This frees ground troops from the hazardous and time-intensive task of conducting the same patrols on the ground. Information and battlefield intelligence gathered by radar can be communicated between air and ground forces instantaneously, enabling quicker operational decision making. Further, as part of a counterinsurgency strategy, increased air surveillance will provide additional protections to Afghan civilians.

However, national caveats have complicated the deployment of NATO AWACS to Afghanistan. Multinational crews operate and support the 17 NATO AWACS based in Germany. Several nations, including Germany, are restricted to largely noncombat roles in Afghanistan, and this has led to a protracted debate over their deployment.

Earlier this year, the German Bundestag finally approved deployment of up to 300 additional personnel to operate AWACS in Afghanistan in support of the ISAF mission, stressing that they should be used primarily for air safety missions.[50] In June, the German government announced that it would deploy 100 personnel aboard four AWACS to support the ISAF's stabilization mission.[51]

However, Germany's four AWACS have effectively been grounded since August, and Berlin announced in November that it would not renew its mandate for the AWACS deployment this December.[52] Berlin is claiming difficulty in securing overflight rights from Azerbaijan, a claim that Baku has hotly denied.[53] The German government needs to work with Baku to find a solution before December and request the Bundestag to extend its mandate for deployment of the AWACS at the same time it renews Germany's mandate for the deployment of troops to Afghanistan.

Helicopters. Insurgents in Afghanistan have stepped up their use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which account for nearly 80 percent of NATO casualties.[54] Deploying troops by helicopter greatly reduces their exposure to IEDs, but the House of Commons Defense Committee recently reported that British troops are facing greater risks of IED attacks because of the shortage of helicopters in Afghanistan.[55]

Air mobility also greatly increases the speed and versatility with which forces can be inserted into combat zones. Given the vast geographic sprawl of Afghanistan and the low troop-to-population ratio, small units are often responsible for wide areas of operation and need helicopters to maintain the initiative in combat operations. Moreover, access to medical airlift can mean the difference between life and death for wounded troops.[56]

British forces have experienced some of the most intense combat of this war, but they have just 23 transport helicopters supporting 9,000 combat troops.[57] The military inventories of Continental Europe show the ability to backfill the critical shortage of helicopters in Afghanistan, but the nations are reluctant to do so because of operational risks and the considerable costs of shipping and maintenance.[58] As a result, Dutch, British, American, and British Chinooks bear a disproportionate burden, which cannot continue indefinitely.[59]

Several European nations, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Turkey, could contribute enhanced airlift capability that, absent national caveats, would markedly increase the security and efficacy of combat operations in Afghanistan. Greece also has capacity at its disposal, including 15 Chinooks.[60]

Greece has been a reluctant contributor to the mission in Afghanistan, deploying fewer troops than Macedonia, even after Greece unilaterally blocked Macedonian membership in NATO in 2008.[61] In 2003, Athens refused a request from NATO for additional helicopters due to the financial pressures of hosting the 2004 Olympic Games.[62] In 2007, it joined France, Germany, Turkey, and Spain in again turning down a NATO request for additional helicopters. NATO has since contracted commercial helicopters to compensate for military shortfalls.[63]

What NATO Should Do

The NATO alliance should identify the political, military, and civilian resources needed from individual European countries to further support the mission in Afghanistan and outline a plan for their deployment, consistent with General McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy:

  • President Obama, NATO Secretary General Rasmussen, and NATO heads of state should publicly make the case for the Afghanistan war and express their support of General McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy. All alliance leaders need to rally behind General McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy and seek to shape public opinion about the mission. Secretary General Rasmussen needs to press individual allies in Continental Europe for additional resources, in conjunction with a high-profile speech by President Obama in London in December, challenging European nations to match Britain's commitment to the Afghanistan mission.
  • Continental European NATO members, including new members, need to deploy additional combat forces to Afghanistan. Additional combat troops should be deployed to Afghanistan along with critical enablers such as engineers and explosives experts. In addition, the Netherlands should extend its mandate in Uruzgan province past December 2010.
  • Continental Europe should remove the vast majority of national caveats on troops and material provisions. Commanders on the ground should determine the geographical deployment of personnel and the scope of engagement. Continued micromanaging from national capitals will seriously undermine NATO's strategy. Further, the use of non-declared national caveats should be banned.
  • Continental Europe needs to supply additional civilian and military trainers to train the Afghan National Security Force. NATO should take the lead in coordinating the training of the army and police, supported by the European Union's deployment and other associated training missions. NATO's European allies need to work with other ISAF members to deploy 44 additional Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams by December 2010. Continental Europe needs to call on its home guard, paramilitary, and armed police resources to provide the civil-military and paramilitary police training that is needed in Afghanistan.
  • Germany should renew its mandate to supply AWACS. Berlin should quickly resolve with Azerbaijan any outstanding issues pertaining to overflight rights and deploy AWACS to support military and civilian ISAF operations.
  • France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Greece should supply helicopters to support civilian and combat operations in Afghanistan without imposing caveats. Helicopters should be provided for medium and heavy lift, combat engagements, and medical evacuations.


President Obama has repeatedly called Afghanistan a war of necessity.[64] Winning will not be easy or quick, but victory is certainly possible given the right strategy and adequate resources.

For too long, several Continental allies have hidden behind pretexts and excuses, forcing other members to carry unfair shares of the burden. Since the beginning of the Afghan campaign in 2001, the United States and the United Kingdom have committed disproportionate amounts of blood and treasure to uprooting radical extremism at its source, taking the fight to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. France, Germany, Greece, Italy, and Spain can no longer hide behind political pusillanimity or stall for time.

Other geographically smaller nations have fought bravely alongside countries that are not even in the NATO alliance. Newer members of the alliance--including Romania, Albania, Poland, Bulgaria, and Croatia--also have an opportunity totake the initiative within the alliance and shape their standing within NATO.

The war in Afghanistan was undertaken following NATO's first and only invocation of Article V. If Europe continues to fail America in this endeavor, America will have genuine cause to doubt NATO's founding ethos that transatlantic security is indivisible. Europe may consequently find itself without America's security guarantee, which has kept the peace in Europe for the past 60 years. The stakes in Afghanistan could not be higher--for freedom, for transatlantic security, and for the future of NATO.

Sally McNamara is Senior Policy Analyst in European Affairs in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation. Nicholas Connor, an intern with the Thatcher Center; Aaron Church, an intern with the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies; and Erica Munkwitz, assistant in the Thatcher Center, aided in preparing this paper.

[1]Bob Woodward, "McChrystal: More Forces or 'Mission Failure,'" The Washington Post, September 21, 2009, at (November 10, 2009).

[2]Tony Karon, "Is Escalation Obama's Only Choice in Afghanistan?" Time, October 20, 2009, at,8599,1931050,00.html (November 10, 2009).

[3]Woodward, "McChrystal."

[4]Barack Obama, "Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on the Way Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan," The White House, December 1, 2009, at (December 2, 2009).

[5]Associated Press, "2 NATO Members: No More Troops to Afghanistan Now," October 23, 2009.

[6]Leo Cendrowicz, "Europe: No Blank Check for Obama on Global Security," Time, February 09, 2009, at,8599,1878135,00.html#ixzz0X3rvHCCi (November 16, 2009).

[7]Sally McNamara, "NATO's 60th Anniversary Summit: Unfocused and Unsuccessful," Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 2388, April 8, 2009, at (November 16, 2009).

[8]James Kirkup, Thomas Harding, and Toby Harnden, "Bob Ainsworth Criticises Barack Obama over Afghanistan," The Telegraph, November 25, 2009, at (November 25, 2009).

[9]North Atlantic Council, "Bucharest Summit Declaration," April 3, 2008, at (November 16, 2009).

[10]North Atlantic Treaty Organization, "International Security Assistance Force and Afghan National Army Strength & Laydown," April 3, 2009 and October 22, 2009, at (November 16, 2009).

[11]North Atlantic Treaty Organization, "NATO Ministers Agree on Key Priorities for Afghanistan," October 23, 2009, at (November 13, 2009).


[13]North Atlantic Treaty Organization, "International Security Assistance Force," October 22, 2009.

[14]Insurgent-initiated attacks are classified by NATO as direct-fire attacks, indirect-fire attacks, improvised explosive devices, or surface-to-air fire. See Center for Strategic and International Studies, Strategic Advisory Group, "Unclassified Metrics," April 2009, at (November 19, 2009).


[16]Jim Garamone, "Press Secretary Cites Candor on Afghan Troop Levels,",October 15, 2009, at (November 18, 2009).

[17] "Operation Enduring Freedom," at (November 17, 2009).

[18]General James Jones, "Update on NATO Operations in Afghanistan," U.S. Department of State, October 24, 2006, at http://2002-2009-fpc.state .gov/75030.htm (November 18, 2009).

[19]Hearing to Consider the Nominations of Admiral James G. Stavridis, USN for Reappointment to the Grade of Admiral and to Be Commander, U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe; Lieutenant General Douglas M. Fraser, USAF to Be General and Commander, U.S. Southern Command; and Lieutenant General Stanley A. McChrystal, USA to Be General and Commander, International Security and Assistance Force and Commander, U.S. Forces, Afghanistan, Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate, June 2, 2009, at (November 18, 2009).

[20]Julian Hale, "Continuing Restrictions Likely on Some NATO Forces in Afghanistan," Defense News, September 21, 2009, at (November 19, 2009).

[21]Andrew Feickert, "U.S. and Coalition Military Operations in Afghanistan: Issues for Congress," Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, updated December 11, 2006, at (November 18, 2009).

[22]David P. Auerswald and Stephen M. Saideman, "Caveats Emptor: Multilateralism at War in Afghanistan," prepared for Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, New York, February 15-18, 2009, at,%20isa%202009.pdf (November 18, 2009).

[23]Reuters, "Restrictions on NATO Troops in Afghanistan," AlertNet, November 26, 2006, at /L26451165.htm (November 18, 2009).

[24]See General John Craddock, "NATO and Afghanistan: Equitable Burden Sharing," remarks at Reserve Officers Association of the United States, Washington, D.C., video file, July 9, 2009, at (November 18, 2009).

[25]Woodward, "McChrystal."

[26]General Stanley McChrystal, address at International Institute of Strategic Studies, London, October 1, 2009, at (November 12, 2009).


[28]Obama, "Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation."

[29]Al Pessin, "UN Envoy Endorses More Troops for Afghanistan," Voice of America, October 23, 2009, at (November 13, 2009).

[30]Thomas Rietig, "German Government to Extend Afghanistan Mission, Parliamentary Approval Needed," The Hamilton Spectator (Ontario),November 18, 2009, at (November 20, 2009).

[31]President Obama has stated: "It is my intention to finish the job." See Scott Wilson, "War Speech to Outline Escalation and Exit," The Washington Post, November 25, 2009, at (November 25, 2009).

[32]Tom Donnelly and Tim Sullivan, "McChrystal Lite," The Weekly Standard, November 9, 2009, at (November 10, 2009).

[33]John J. Kruzel, "NATO Chief Predicts 'Substantially More Troops' in Afghanistan," DefenseLink News,November 17, 2009, at (November 18, 2009).

[34]BBC News, "Helmand to Get More Afghan Troops," November 18, 2009, at (November 18, 2009).

[35]Garamone, "Press Secretary Cites Candor on Afghan Troop Levels."

[36]Ahto Lobjakas, "NATO Struggles to Match Obama's Afghanistan Strategy," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty,December 2, 2009, at (December 2, 2009).

[37]International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2009 (Abingdon, U.K.: Routledge, 2009).

[38]Associated Press, "NATO Chief: Allies Will Provide 5,000 More Troops," Boston Herald, December 2, 2009, at (December 2, 2009).

[39]Voice of America, "NATO Chief: US Allies Pledge 5,000 More Troops to Fight in Afghanistan," December 2, 2009, at (December 2, 2009).

[40], "Operation Enduring Freedom."

[41]Mark Kranenburg, "Parliament Outmanoeuvres Foreign Minister over Afghanistan," NRC Handelsblad, October 7, 2009, at (November 12, 2009).

[42]Matthew Day, "Russia 'Simulates' Nuclear Attack on Poland," The Telegraph, November 1, 2009, at (November 18, 2009).

[43]Associated Press, "NATO Chief."

[44]Reuters, "Obama's Afghan Strategy to Emphasize Training," November 30, 2009, at (December 2, 2009).

[45]Slobodan Lekic and Vanessa Gera, "NATO Chief Says Alliance Must Remain Focused on Afghan Effort," Yahoo News, October 22, 2009, at (November 13, 2009).

[46]North Atlantic Treaty Organization, "NATO's Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams (OMLTs)," October 2009, at (November 19, 2009).

[47]NATO Parliamentary Assembly, "NATO Operations: Current Priorities and Lessons Learned," 2008 Annual Session, at (November 17, 2009).

[48]North Atlantic Treaty Organization, "NATO Training Mission--Afghanistan," April 4, 2009, at /news_52802.htm (November 19, 2009).

[49]International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2009.

[50]Federal Republic of Germany, Foreign Office, "Cabinet Decides to Deploy AWACS Aircraft in Afghanistan," July 3, 2009, at (November 20, 2009).

[51]Deutsche Welle, "NATO to Send AWACS to Afghanistan," June 12, 2008, at,,4320757,00.html (November 20, 2009).

[52]Reuters, "Germany Won't Extend AWACS to Afghanistan: Guttenberg," November 17, 2009, at (November 19, 2009).

[53]News.Az, "No Problem for NATO Overflying Azerbaijan--Foreign Ministry," November 19, 2009, at (November 20, 2009).

[54]Kim Sengupta, "Helicopters Boost Troops in Afghanistan," The Independent, November 16, 2009, at (November 20, 2009).

[55]Richard Norton-Taylor, "Helicopter Shortage Seriously Undermines UK Operations in Afghanistan, Report Says," The Guardian, July 16, 2009, at (November 20, 2009).

[56]The survival rate among injured personnel who receive medical care in less than an hour is more than 90 percent. See Tom Coghlan, "Scramble for Survival: Helicopter Medics Risk Death to Save Others," The Times, November 18, 2009, at (November 23, 2009).

[57]Norton-Taylor, "Helicopter Shortage Seriously Undermines UK Operations in Afghanistan."

[58]"NATO Short of Helicopters for Afghanistan,", November 27, 2007, at,15240,157097,00.html (November 20, 2009).

[59]"NATO About to Lease Troop Helis for Afghanistan?" Defense Industry Daily, November 6, 2007, at (November 20, 2009).

[60]International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2009.

[61]North Atlantic Treaty Organization, "International Security Assistance Force," October 22, 2009.

[62]Embassy of Greece, Consulate General, "PM Simitis: Greece Cannot Send Helicopters to Afghanistan," October 24, 2003, at (November 20, 2009).

[63]Afghan Conflict Monitor, "NATO Funds Additional Helicopters in Afghanistan," October 29, 2007, at (November 20, 2009).

[64]Maeve Reston, "Obama Tells Veterans Afghanistan Is a 'War of Necessity,'" Los Angeles Times, August 18, 2009, at (December 2, 2009).


Sally McNamara
Sally McNamara