Afghanistan: a big issue for NATO

After the NATO summit it became obvious that the alliance is trying to show it is still relevant in the world stage. The organization set out a series of strategic goals aimed at stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan.

“But whether goals can make a difference on the battlefields in Afghanistan, or to the waning support for that mission or to the disagreements among nations over missile defense, nuclear weapons, and military spending, all remains to be seen,” Russia Today (RT) noted.

Taliban fighters

The NATO summit that concluded in Lisbon, Portugal, was a “tremendous success” from the U.S. standpoint, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said.

Allies agreed with Russia to jointly expand support for Afghanistan, including broadening transit arrangements, extending training of counter narcotics officials and providing equipment to Afghan security forces.

Weakened severely by the seemingly endless Afghan war, the power of the block was in question, along with the purpose of the combat mission.

“Most European countries know what it means to be in the middle of a war so they are asking some hard questions,” said DeGennaro. “Who are we going to send and how many people are we willing to give up in a situation where we’re really not sure what the context of the intervention is.”

And there was the question of if, in the context of NATO, it’s the United States whose goals are being served.

“It enables the US to do two things,” Lawrence Korb, senior fellow at Center for American Progress, said of NATO. “One, to assure American people that threats they’re dealing with for example in Afghanistan, are not just against the US. And that the US while it’s still world’s greatest power is no longer a power that can do everything by itself.”

Tom Hayden, a writer for The Nation and the director of the Peace and Justice Resource Center said there has been a great deal of confusion on America and NATO’s draw down in Afghanistan.

Initially the Obama administration set a tentative withdrawal and reduction deadline in 2011, but the date was moved to sometime in 2014, and even that is a provisional deadline. Obama and other NATO leaders set 2014 for moving Afghans into the lead role in fighting the Taliban.

At the same time, many in the US and many allies abroad do not favor continued combat missions into 2014.

“A vast majority of Europeans in the NATO countries are against this policy,” said Hayden. “He [Obama] is going there begging the NATO partners to stay on board, so to speak, when many of them are in the process of leaving or leaving sooner than 2014.

“There will not be British troops in large numbers and they won’t be in a combat role” by 2015, British Prime Minister David Cameron said. But he added, however, Britain has no intention of abandoning Afghanistan any time soon. Canada is ending its combat role in 2011, according to Associated Press.

Hayden argued – paraphrasing former NATO Commander General James Jones – the purpose of the war in Afghanistan was merely to keep NATO united and strong.

“He sees any pull out from Afghanistan as the potential end of NATO, so there is a lot at stake here in terms of geo-politics,” he explained.

Maintaining ongoing and continual conflict in Afghanistan would make the West less safe from terrorism, argued Hayden.

Since the war in Afghanistan is hopefully going to end, NATO needed new reasons not to fall apart. Cooperation with Russia in order to create the new missile shield could be a new unifying goal for the Alliance.

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