NATO: No Troops for You

Will they or won’t they? In a story that has changed little in the past few years, U.S. requests for additional combat troops in Afghanistan have been met with resounding silence from NATO.

We first wrote of the “Issue that Wouldn’t Die,” May 5, 2008, when U.S. Army Gen. and Supreme Allied Commander John Craddock revealed his frustration during a National Public Radio interview. Yet as much as the U.S. pushes for an increased NATO combat presence, it continues its love-hate relationship with NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Though ISAF is light on elements like “NATO,” “Security,” and “Assistance,” U.S. leaders remain determined to make Afghanistan a NATO event, dire predictions be damned!

As recently as last week, Defense Secretary (and occasional superhero) Robert M. Gates was in Europe scrounging for NATO cooperation with little success. A recent editorial in The New York Times opined that President Obama should employ his rock star image to jar loose some support, though few think Europeans will cooperate.

Frustrated and with increased combat operations imminent, the U.S. might be taking a different approach. It seems U.S. leaders will take anything they can get, so noncombat troops and civilian donations by NATO nations might be the compromise. While soft power has been emphasized and might be the only way to secure Afghanistan, a U.S.-shouldered combat burden might be as irritating now as it has been since World War I.

The challenges extend beyond manpower. U.S. leaders are working to keep supplies flowing, notably through the ‘stans. Kyrgyzstan has ordered the U.S. out of an important air base within six months. Actually, Kyrgyzstan tossed the money-challenged Americans in favor of (you guessed it) the high-rolling Ruskies who will pay a reported $2.15 billion in a package deal. (The U.S. has paid $63 million annually and is looking for a way to remain in place.) Uzbekistan has said it will allow nonmilitary U.S. transports in its country.

Given the new Taliban homeland in Pakistan, making offers that can’t be refused might not be too far off.

Recent Posts